Each of us harbors an enormous microbial community.
In the gut, these microbes form a metabolic organ whose genes outnumber those in the human genome by over 100-fold, and whose composition can change overnight. It is becoming increasingly clear that variation in these communities has important consequences for health. The overall goal of the lab is to dissect the mechanisms that commensal gut microbes use to compete, cooperate, and antagonize each other in the gut and to explore how microbiome variation impacts our response to external perturbations, including pathogenic infection and medical drugs.
The Reyniers Germ-Free System 1 (c. 1950). Illustration: Donald Birren.
The early days of gnotobiotics.