University of Louisville Magazine


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ou may think you alone inhabit your body. In reality, you support an ecosystem of bacteria, viruses, fungi and other microorganisms on your skin and in your ears, eyes, nasal passages, and urinary, genital and digestive tracts. By far the largest number of these microbes is found in the intestines, collectively known as the gut microbiota, where they per- form vital roles in digestion, produce critical metabolites, control the immune system and even affect the brain. Every human is home to a unique microbiota containing trillions of bugs in thousands of varieties. The microbes cannot survive without their host home, but the host is dependent on the bugs as well. Scientists have recognized the presence of microbes in the gut for hundreds of years, but only in the past decade have they been able to engage in more detailed research into the microbes it contains and their functions. Relatively recent research has shown the content of the microbiota has a significant impact on the health of the host, but the mechanisms by which it causes or prevents diseases still are to be discovered. "The microbiota is very critical in regulating biology, physiology and pathology," said Haribabu Bodduluri, PhD, vice chair and professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology (M&I) in the UofL School of Medicine. "The interaction between bugs and humans is pivotal for human health and is very well established — except we still don't know how it works." Bodduluri is one of a large number of researchers throughout the School of Medicine and the university conducting research into how these organisms influence health. If they can determine which microbes interact with the body's immune system, what metabolic products they generate and the roles of those metabolites, it could present opportuni- ties to develop new therapies for cancer, malaria, autoimmune diseases, neurodegenerative disease and metabolic disorders. UofL researchers are working to understand the functions of gut microbiota and develop therapies for an array of diseases S U M M E R 2 0 1 7 U o f L M A G A Z I N E | 3 1

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