Current Research

Elucidating interactions between bile acids and the human gut microbiome

The gut microbiome has a dynamic set of functions including the metabolism of host-produced compounds, like bile acids. Microbes play an important role in converting primary bile acids (i.e. host-secreted) into a set of diverse secondary bile acids. These microbe-derived bile acids have a myriad of effects on host health including glucose metabolism, energy expenditure, and a number of liver and GI diseases. However, not much work has been done to identify the specific bile acid transforming capabilities of gut microbes or how these transformations modulate their physiology. To address these gaps, I aim to gain a comprehensive and quantitative understanding of the interactions between bile acids and the gut microbiome using techniques such as anaerobic culturing, liquid chromatography tandem mass spectroscopy, and germ-free mouse models. To achieve this goal, I am currently working to quantify the bile acid deconjugation activity of 72+ gut microbes, identify tolerance levels of these microbes to various bile acid types and concentrations, and produce specific bile acid compositions through curated microbial communities in germ-free mice. In the future, we hope to explore the role of bile acids in disease and be able to use specific bile acids or a certain bile acid composition in the host as a diagnostic marker of disease or a potential therapeutic.