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VUMC’s Byndloss recognized for microbiome research

Jul. 9, 2020, 1:00 PM


by Leigh MacMillan

Mariana Byndloss, DVM, PhD, assistant professor of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, has been selected as a finalist of the inaugural NOSTER & Science Microbiome Prize.

Mariana Byndloss, DVM, PhD

The prize was established to recognize innovative research by young investigators “working on the functional attributes of the microbiota” — the microorganisms that live in or on a host. It is sponsored by NOSTER, a new brand of biopharmaceutical and nutritional products developed by Nitto Pharmaceutical Industries, and the journal Science.

Applicants were invited to submit an essay describing their microbiota/microbiome-related research and its “potential to contribute to our understanding of human or veterinary health and disease or to guide therapeutic interventions.”

Winners were selected by a committee of independent scientists, and their essays appear in the July 10 issue of Science.

“The microbiome field has a strong need for moving from association studies to research that can really answer ‘why’ and ‘how’ the microbes living in our gut may be contributing to health and disease. I am honored to see my research recognized by experts in the field as research that is contributing to answering such relevant mechanistic questions,” said Byndloss, who is also a member of the Vanderbilt Institute for Infection, Immunology and Inflammation (VI4) and an assistant director of the Vanderbilt Microbiome Initiative.

Byndloss’s research focuses on the links between gut microbiota, host metabolism and disease. Projects in her laboratory seek to understand how the host and microbiota work together to promote health, and what happens to cause changes in the gut microbiota (dysbiosis) during inflammation.

Her team is exploring whether non-communicable diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, cancer and cardiovascular disease — the leading causes of death in high-income countries — can be prevented by targeting the host-microbiota interaction.

Byndloss’s essay in Science describes her research demonstrating how epithelial cells lining the colon (colonocytes) shape the beneficial microbiota of the gut by “suffocating” harmful bacteria. She discovered that the highly oxidative metabolic state of colonocytes limits the amount of oxygen in the mucosa, which helps maintain an anaerobic environment and ensures the dominance of beneficial anaerobic microorganisms.

Byndloss earned her DVM and PhD from Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais in her native Brazil. Her doctoral work, which was performed in Brazil and at the University of California, Davis, was awarded the Brazilian National Prize for best PhD thesis in Veterinary Medicine. She completed postdoctoral training with Andreas Bäumler, PhD, at UC Davis before joining the Vanderbilt faculty in 2018.

Byndloss is also a member of the Vanderbilt Digestive Disease Research Center and the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center.

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