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Lab Faculty, Staff, and Students. My research interests are concentrated on studying the ecology of the human microbiome focusing on the oral microbial community. This lack of knowledge is what makes this field of such importance. Within this context, I use oral polymicrobial diseases periodontal disease as a model to study and understand complex human microbial communities and the interactions among their members and with their host.
The unifying theme of my work is to understand the role that microbial communities play in human health and disease. Working at MIT I developed a set of tools that facilitate the study of gene expression in whole microbial communities metatranscriptome and not just in one specific organism Frias-Lopez et al. Currently, the main focus of my research is understanding the mechanisms of progression of the most common infectious polymicrobial inflammatory disease: periodontal disease.
I have been awarded with an R01 grant from NIH to study changes in the metagenome and metatranscriptome of the oral community that could explain why in some cases disease progresses and in other it does not. It is the sixth most prevalent health condition in the world affecting million people worldwide. In addition, recent studies have suggested that periodontal diseases can influence the risk for certain systemic conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, respiratory diseases, and can affect reproductive outcome.
One main focus in my lab is using metatranscriptomic analysis to identify in situ genes that are differentially expressed in complex microbial communities in health and disease, specifically studying differences in gene expression of progressing and non-progressing periodontal sites to understand what causes the progression of the disease only in specific sites but not in others. Another of my research interests is trying to understand how oral microbial communities are structured and what are the driving forces that shape them.
Using system biology approaches weighted correlation network analysis we have identified bacterial modules in the pathogenic microbial community that were associated with disease. The use of these techniques facilitates the understanding of such a complex community as the oral microbial community.