Our lab investigates diet-microbiota interactions in chronic intestinal disorders. One central line of research involves the metabolic activity of gut bacteria on the digestion of the dietary protein, gluten. Another line of research, relates to  projects that investigate role of proteolytic imbalance in ulcerative colitis, and the contribution of proteolytic bacteria to colonic inflammation. We explore mechanisms through which microbes can modulate intestinal inflammation and could help develop therapies to treat celiac disease, and ulcerative colitis.

Research focus

About 40 per cent of most populations have a genetic predisposition to celiac disease, but only one per cent develop the autoimmune condition when exposed to dietary gluten, and this could be influenced by the type of bacteria present in the gut. Research performed in our lab discovered that opportunistic pathogens and commensal bacteria that colonize the small intestine are capable of degrading dietary gluten differentially, increasing or decreasing the immunogenicity of gluten peptides. Inflammatory bowel disorders (IBD) such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are multifactorial, however gut bacteria have been proposed as drivers of inflammation. Our lab utilizes gnotobiotic models using bacteria isolated from IBD patients, and studies intestinal barrier development and gut proteolytic/ anti-proteolytic balance as mechanisms underlying the link between bacterial communities and IBD. 

Research approaches

Research tools include gnotobiotic mouse models of colonization using bacteria isolated from patients’ samples. Sequencing, isolation and metabolic activity of intestinal bacteria are investigated through collaboration with the Sequencing Facility at the Farncombe Institute and the Biochemistry & Biomedical Sciences Department at McMaster. Collaboration with the Division of Gastroenterology enables translational clinical studies in patient cohorts.

Click here for PubMed listings for Dr. Elena Verdú

Click here for the orientation guide for new Undergraduate students in the lab