Microbiology

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Drawing of a microbe

BTI Kicks Off Research Collaboration with the University of Tokyo

July 20, 2017

On Aug. 8, the Biotechnology Institute (BTI), a Consortium member, will be co-hosting a one-day symposium with colleagues from the University of Tokyo. This event inaugurates a Research Exchange Program between BTI and the University of Tokyo’s Department of Biotechnology; Biotechnology Research Center; and Department of Applied Biological Chemistry. Scholars from both universities will present their research; there will also be a poster session and catered lunch. The event will be held from 8:30am-5:00pm at Borlaug Hall 306 on the St. Paul campus. Learn more and RSVP here.

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Bread and cheese

Register for 2016 Healthy Foods Summit: Food, Microbes, and Health

August 25, 2016

Microbes are everywhere in our food system, inhabiting biomes from soil to human, for better or worse. This year's Healthy Foods Summit will be held on Oct. 27-28. On the first, on-campus day, food scientists, microbiologists, and policymakers will present recent research on how these tiny organisms can be better understood and controlled to ensure healthy, safe food for everyone. The second day at the Minnesota Arboretum will be more applied and practical, featuring talks by community farmers, grocery coops, small food business owners and restaurateurs. Early Bird registration fees are available until Sept. 23; student rates are also offered. For a full agenda, locations and to register, visit z.umn.edu/healthyfoods2016

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Poo lookalike ice cream sundae from Beijing

Consortium Lecturers Discuss Fecal Transplant Pill

August 2, 2016

An article by Ed Yong in The Atlantic describes attempts to create effective stool substitutes to replace fecal transplants used to treat Clostridium difficile, which kills almost 30,000 Americans each year. One such substitute, from Seres Therapeutics, recently failed during a phase 2 drug trial. Yong quotes Dianne Hoffmann, who spoke last spring during the Consortium's Microbiome Therapeutics lecture series: she notes that "whole stool" is clearly more effective than bacterial pills. "Something in there is working. We just don’t know what it is, and it might be hard to deconstruct.” Another speaker in the lecture series, Alexander Khoruts, adds "The full spectrum of microbes harvested from donors has been designed by nature, and has a proven safety track record in the original host. That’s a very hard benchmark to improve upon with any kind of synthetic." You can view Diane Hoffmann's lecture on regulating microbiome therapeutics here; Alex Khoruts' talk, The Evolving Human Microbiome, is here.

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C. difficile bacterium

Scientists Seek Answers: Why Do Fecal Transplants Work?

July 18, 2016

An article in the New York Times features recently published research by Alexander Khoruts, MD (Microbiota Therapeutics Program) and Michael J. Sadowsky, PhD (Director, Consortium member the Biotechnology Institute). They are among the scientists trying to understand the mechanisms enabling transplanted fecal matter to fight potentially fatal Clostridium difficile infections. While Khoruts and Sadowsky are currently focusing on the chemistry of the human gut, specifically bile acids, other researchers are looking at microbes known as archaea, and still others are considering the role of bacteria-infecting viruses. Understanding the human microbiome is notoriously complex; as Prof. Khoruts notes, it's "something nature put together over millions and millions of years.” View Prof. Khoruts' recent lecture on the human microbiome here.  

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C difficile bacteria

Probiotics Regulation Talk Concludes Microbiome Lecture Series

April 21, 2016

The 2015-16 Microbiome Research & Microbiota Therapeutics lecture series wrapped up today with a talk by Prof. Diane Hoffmann, JD, MS, of the Law & Health Care Program at the University of Maryland. Prof. Hoffmann discussed her work leading an NIH-funded working group charged with identifying regulatory gaps and recommending solutions to ensure the safety and efficacy of probiotic products. She also described a project currently underway to perform a similar audit of fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) regulations and those for other microbiome transplants. Prof. Francisco Diez-Gonzalez, PhD (Dept. of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Minnesota) offered a commentary from his perspective as a food safety expert and microbiologist. Videos are available of the two previous lectures in the series, one on the evolving human microbiome by Prof. Alexander Khoruts, MD (University of Minnesota) and the other on pediatric uses of FMT by Prof. Stacy Kahn, MD (University of Chicago). Video of the lecture by Prof. Hoffmann will be posted soon; please check back. 

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Dr. Stacy Kahn lecturing

Pediatric Microbiome Therapeutics Lecture – Video Now Available

March 31, 2016

Prof. Stacy A. Kahn, MD, (University of Chicago School of Medicine, Comer Children's Hospital) recently delivered a lecture on Fecal Microbiota Transplantation (FMT): Ethical Challenges and Regulatory Hurdles. Dr. Kahn, a pediatrician, discussed the real-world challenges faced by clinicians whose patients see FMT as a magic bullet for the treatment of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD), despite a lack of evidence that it works for those conditions. She reviewed the differences between Clostridium difficile, for which FMT has been proven effective, and other digestive diseases, and provided an overview of ethical and regulatory issues presented by FMT. A video of her entire talk, which was the second in a series of three on Microbiome Research & Microbiota Therapeutics, can be found here

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Alexander Khoruts speaking

Online Video of Evolving Human Microbiome Lecture Now Available

March 11, 2016

On February 17, Alexander Khoruts, MD, of the University of Minnesota's Microbiota Therapeutics Program delivered the first lecture in the three-part Consortium-sponsored microbiome series. Video of that event – including commentary by Dan Knights, PhD, of the BioTechnology Institute and a Q&A moderated by Michael Sadowsky, PhD, also of the BioTech Institute – is now available here. The next lecture in the series is on regulatory challenges in microbiota-targeted therapies, including probiotics. It will be delivered on Thursday, April 21, by Diane E. Hoffmann, JD, MS, of the University of Maryland Law School – register for that event today! 

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C difficile bacteria

Sadowsky, Khoruts Sound Cautionary Note on FMT

February 29, 2016

In today's issue of Nature Microbiology, University of Minnesota professors Michael J. Sadowsky, PhD, and Alexander Khoruts, MD, warn against the spread of fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) into clinical or domestic settings that may not allow for the proper administration of the therapy. They note that the relative simplicity of using FMT to treat recurrent C. difficile infections has led to "the proliferation of an unregulated FMT industry around the world, as well as 'do it yourself' protocols. . . . Such practices are potentially risky, as they generally lack the necessary rigor for pathogen screening." Earlier this month, Dr. Khoruts delivered a lecture on this topic hosted by the Consortium, The Evolving Human Microbiome, which was moderated by Prof. Sadowsky – video of that event can be found here. The next lecture in our microbiome series, Fecal Microbial Translplantation, will be presented on March 8 by pediatrician Stacy A. Kahn, MD, of the University of Chicago.

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Baby

Cesarean Babies Benefit from Exposure to Mother's Microbiome

February 9, 2016

New research led by Dr. Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello indicates a promising new therapy for babies born by c-section. Cesarean infants typically have less diverse microbiomes when compared to babies born vaginally, a factor associated with increased risk for immune and metabolic disorders. In the study, described in Nature Medicine, infants delivered by c-section were swabbed with their mothers' vaginal fluids immediately upon being born. Subsequently, the gut, oral and skin bacterial communities of these babies was enriched and more closely resembled those who were delivered vaginally. Dr. Alexander Khoruts, MD, of the University of Minnesota's Microbiota Therapeutics Program, discussed the research and its implications in an article also published in Nature Medicine. On Wednesday, Feb. 17, Dr. Khoruts will be lecturing on Dr. Gloria Dominguez-Bello's research, his own pioneering therapeutic interventions, and the threat of antibiotic-resistant rogue superbugs. 

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C difficile bacteria

Alexander Khoruts on Promising New Drug to Treat Deadly C. diff

October 1, 2015

A team at Stanford University has developed a new drug to fight deadly Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) infections. Each year, the superbug kills 29,000 Americans and makes 450,000 sick. Rather than destroying helpful bacteria along with C. difficile toxins, as antibiotics do, tests in mice show the new compound prevents damage to the inside of the intestine, thereby avoiding the diarrhea and sepsis that causes most fatalities. In an NBC News story, University of Minnesota gastroenterologist Alexander Khoruts, MD, explains the potential signficance of the new therapy, noting "a critical need for non-antibiotic alternatives" to treat C. difficile infection. Prof. Khoruts is Medical Director of the University's Microbiota Therapeutics Program, a sponsor of this year's Consortium lecture series on microbiome research and treatment.

Consortium Faculty

Consortium Faculty

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Alexander Khoruts

The Evolving Human Microbiome

Prof. Alexander Khoruts, MD
February 17, 2016 -
11:30am to 1:00pm

Best Buy Theater, 4th floor, Northrop Auditorium

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E coli bacteria

Infant Antibiotic Use Linked to Adult Diseases

May 15, 2015

A new study led by researchers at the University of Minnesota has found a three-way link among antibiotic use in infants, changes in the gut bacteria, and disease later in life. The imbalances in gut microbes have been tied to infectious diseases, allergies and other autoimmune disorders, and even obesity, later in life. The study was led by Biomedical Informatics and Computational Biology program graduate student fellow Pajau Vangay, who works in the laboratory of Dan Knights, the study's senior author. Dr. Knights is also on the faculty of Consortium member center the Biotechnology Institute. The findings of the study were published in Cell Host & Microbe

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Prof. Jeff Gralnick

Microbial and Plant Genomics Institute Names New Director

September 12, 2014

Dr. Jeff Gralnick has been named the new director of the Microbial and Plant Genomics Institute (MPGI). He began his three-year term this month. Dr. Gralnick's research is related to engineering compounds that could generate power in microbial fuel cells or react against certain toxic metals in the environment Working in collaboration with Prof. Daniel Bond, Gralnick made a key discovery about how bacteria can convert organic compounds into electricity. 

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