BS, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
University of Massachusetts - Amherst
PhD Student, Molecular and Translational Medicine
Boston University School of Medicine
Caroline Genco, PhD, Adviser
Recent studies have emphasized the importance of the microbiome in development and function of the mammalian immune system. Adverse alterations in microbial communities, or dysbiosis, are emerging as triggers for systemic and mucosal inflammatory disorders including inflammatory bowl disease, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and periodontal disease. Animal models support a role for infection with periodontal pathogens as a trigger for dysbiosis, with Porphyromonas gingivalis being a well-documented example. In mice, P. gingivalis subverts host innate immune defenses promoting its own survival and the outgrowth of disease-provoking commensals that drive inflammatory periodontal bone destruction. However, little is known regarding the signaling pathways manipulated by P. gingivalis to disrupt host-microbe homeostasis. My thesis work will focus on understanding the strategies utilized by this pathogen to disrupt host-microbial homeostasis and elucidating host response pathways that regulate dysbiosis. Knowledge obtained from these studies has the potential to generate novel treatments for periodontal disease and other inflammatory diseases triggered by dysbiotic microbial communities.
My interest in P. gingivalis was potentiated not only by its primary etiological role in periodontal disease, but also by its documented association with a spectrum of other chronic diseases of mysterious etiology (e.g. atherosclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis). Emerging evidence indicates that a number of chronic diseases of unknown etiology may have microbial origins. These diseases include neoplastic, autoimmune, and inflammatory diseases, and together compromise the major causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Thus, a long-term goal of mine aims to elucidate the complex host-pathogen interactions that dictate microbial pathogenesis because of their potential for broad therapeutic impact.
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