Meet 5 Microbiome Experts Across 5 Ohio State Colleges

Meet 5 Microbiome Experts Across 5 Ohio State Colleges

The Infectious Diseases Institute Microbial Communities Program and the Center of Microbiome Science hosted its Annual Microbial Communities Symposium  at The Ohio State University. More than 150 participants compiled of industry partners like Procter & Gamble, The Ohio State University students, faculty and staff, gathered in the Energy Advancement and Innovation Center (EAIC) to learn more about the design and prediction of microbial communities. Attendees reveled in the research during this day-long symposium of networking and cutting-edge training in microbiome sciences led by Ohio State experts.

The microbiome, a diverse community of microbes including bacteria, fungi, and viruses along with their genetic material, resides both on and inside the human body. Despite their microscopic size, these microbes play a significant role in maintaining human health and wellness. Ohio State's microbiology department exemplifies a contemporary interdisciplinary approach within the STEM fields, pushing the boundaries of scientific research and discovery.

Five Ohio State experts are at the forefront of research on how the billions of cells in our microbiomes maintain our health and influence climate change, among other significant impacts. Their pioneering work is expanding our understanding of these critical microbial communities.

Karen Dannemiller | The Ohio State University College of Engineering

Dr. Dannemiller's research focuses on the microbiome and chemistry within these environments to promote healthier living spaces on Earth and in space. Her work investigates how microbes thrive in indoor settings with moisture, offering insights into how this growth can lead to harmful exposures. Her findings aim to enhance living conditions and reduce illnesses such as childhood asthma by improving indoor environments.

2. Miqdad Dhariwala | The Ohio State University College of Medicine 

Dr. Dhariwala making significant strides at the Pelotonia Research Center with the expansion of the Dhariwala Lab. Focused on the skin—the body's largest barrier against the external environment—the lab explores the intricate interactions between the skin's diverse microbial and immune elements. Despite the rich microbial and immune diversity of the skin, much is still unknown about the symbiotic relationship between beneficial microbes and the immune system. The Dhariwala Lab, armed with expertise in tissue immunology, microbiome sciences, and innovative translational tools, seeks to unravel this complex "cross-talk." Their aim is to transform their discoveries into advanced therapeutic interventions for prevalent skin conditions such as acne, eczema, psoriasis, and melanoma.

3. Patrick Bradley | The Ohio State University College of Arts and Sciences

Experts acknowledge that gut microbes significantly influence our health, impacting processes such as immunomodulation and drug metabolism. However, current methods for manipulating the microbiome, like transplants and antibiotics, are "blunt instruments," indiscriminately eliminating or introducing hundreds of species. To develop more targeted treatments, researchers must move beyond broad associations to identify specific microbial genes and their functions. Dr. Patrick Bradley, a notable addition to Ohio State’s roster of microbiome researchers, exemplifies this effort. The Bradley Lab employs a dual strategy: developing advanced bioinformatic tools and generating new experimental data to elucidate gut microbial gene function, metabolism, and regulation. Collaborating with fellow researchers at Ohio State, Dr. Bradley applies this integrated approach to explore the role of gut microbes in liver cirrhosis, cardiometabolic diseases, and other immune-related conditions.

4. Justin Kaspar, Ph.D. | The Ohio State University College of Dentistry 

Dr. Kaspar’s research focuses on the microbial interactions within the human oral cavity. His lab investigates the physical contact-dependent interactions between early colonizers of supragingival biofilm communities and pathogens like Streptococcus. Additionally, Dr. Kaspar studies the spatial arrangement of bacteria within oral biofilms, examining how these arrangements can be altered and their role in cooperative or antagonistic interactions. By understanding "bacterial fitness," his research aims to reduce plaque and enhance oral health, ultimately improving our knowledge of the broader bacterial community. This preventive approach seeks to stop tooth decay before it starts, potentially saving patients both time and money.

5. Vanessa Hale | The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine 

Dr. Hale investigates the role of the intestinal and urine microbiome using translational large animal models of disease. Her lab integrates fieldwork, clinical data, molecular lab techniques, and bioinformatics to explore how microbial communities influence host health. A key focus of her research is bladder cancer, examined within a chemical-microbe-host framework that assesses microbial metabolism of environmental chemicals in the bladder and intestines. Essentially, Dr. Hale's work aims to uncover methods to manipulate the microbiome to prevent the development or progression of diseases such as cancer.

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