The gut microbiome is an exciting field of research that has increased exponentially across the past few years. Many studies have found a correlation between imbalances in the gut microbiome and disease states, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (One such research project at the University of Delaware). To simply ask if altering the gut microbiome can alter or affect a disease state in any way, methods are required for targeted microbiome manipulations that allow researchers or clinicians to modulate the populations of specific microbes within a microbiome. The human gut microbiome is home to what is estimated to be near 1000 microbial species. The goal of our project is to take a genetic engineering approach in vitro to develop methods towards gut microbiome therapeutics that can be more targeted than broad-spectrum antibiotics.
The goal of our project is to overexpress bacteriocin genes (toxins that bacteria produce that affect other bacteria) in E. coli in order to develop a dose-dependent relationship with multiple bacteriocins and indicator strains known to be sensitive to these bacteriocins. The long-term goal and rationale for our methodology this year is to determine how to make E. coli overexpress bacteriocins in order to...
1. Kill specific indicator strains relevant to the human gut microbiome
2. Answer questions similar to "how much of a specific bacteriocin is needed to reduce the abundance of a single microbe by 60%?" Our intention is to develop these methods in E. coli and generate data that will be used in computational modeling and future experimental projects towards developing gut microbiome therapeutics.