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Elucidating and Engineering Microbial Communities: Systems and Synthetic Biology Approaches
5th April 2017 @ 11:00 am - 12:00 pm
Microorganisms live in synergistic communities in nature and play key roles in numerous natural or engineered systems. For example, there are increasing evidences that microbes in our gut assist in digesting food, help prevent the invasion of pathogens, and stimulate the immune system. However, the basic physiological and ecological mechanisms governing these complex microbial communities remain largely unclear. My laboratory has been developing and applying new systems biology approaches to elucidate the microbe-microbe and microbe-environment interactions of these communities. In particular, we have been exploiting droplet microfluidics in the co-cultivation and characterization of symbiotic microbial communities. Our devices encapsulate subsets of a synthetic microbial community in nano-liter droplets, provide highly parallel localized environments for co-growth, and are capable of detecting microbial interactions effectively. The technology is being applied to the study of natural microbial communities, including the human gut, oral, and vaginal microbiome.