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Microbes, the Environment, and You

Partnerships for Environmental Public Health (PEPH)

May 21, 2014

Microbes, the Environment, and You

Our bodies are coated, inside and out, with a vast array of microbes, which outnumber our own cells by a factor of 10 to 1. This collection of microbes is known as the microbiome. Thanks, in part, to the NIH-funded Human Microbiome Project, researchers are learning quite a bit about the normal human microbiome and its functions and how disrupting the microbiome may be associated with disease. Environmental health researchers are becoming interested in the microbiome and how it interacts with our environment. The composition of the microbiome can be influenced by external factors, such as diet, and may also be altered by exposure to environmental chemicals. In addition, the microbiome helps break down some of the chemicals we are exposed to and may influence how we respond to them. This webinar featured talks from two researchers who are using model systems to investigate how the microbiome responds to environmental exposures, as well as its relationship to environmentally induced disease states.

Presentations

Experts

John Rawls, Ph.D.

John Rawls, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology at Duke University. After completing his undergraduate education at Emory University, he received a Ph.D. in developmental biology from Washington University in St. Louis and later trained as a postdoctoral fellow at Washington University’s Center for Genome Sciences. Research in Rawls’ laboratory focuses on understanding how environmental factors, such as intestinal microbiota and diet, interact with host genome-encoded processes to influence host physiology and pathophysiology.

Michal Toborek, M.D., Ph.D.

Michal Toborek, M.D., Ph.D., is Leonard M. Miller Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Miami. His laboratory is focused on environmental toxicology and the involvement of biological barriers in the pathomechanisms of brain metastasis and cerebrovascular disorders. Specific interests involve research on behavioral interventions, such as nutrition and exercise, in order to attenuate the toxicity of environmental toxicants. He works on a “gut-brain axis,” which is based on the hypothesis that disruption of the intestinal barrier by environmental toxicants can trigger a sequence of events resulting in facilitation of tumor cell entry into the brain. He has received several national and international awards for his research, including the 2014 Wybran Award “in recognition of the very best scientific contributions that have resulted in the preservation and expansion of the field of NeuroImmune Pharmacology.”

For More Information

Human Microbiome Project (HMP) 
The HMP was established with the mission of generating research resources enabling comprehensive characterization of the human microbiota and analysis of their role in human health and disease.

Obesity and the Environment
With obesity rates skyrocketing, some scientists are wondering whether there is more to the story than simply too many calories. In this podcast, Dr. Bruce Blumberg highlights the latest research on how exposure to chemicals in the environment called "obesogens" could increase the risk for obesity.

Running Interference? Exercise and PCB-Induced Changes in the Gut Microbiome 
An Environmental Health Perspectives news article regarding Michal Toborek's study of the interaction among the gut microbiome, exercise, and PCB exposure in mice.

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Send comments, questions, and suggestions for future webinar topics to peph@niehs.nih.gov.

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