Many effects of commensal microbiota on host immune maturation occur early in life during the “window of opportunity” and have long-term effects on the health of the host. We apply state-of-the art gnotobiology and multi-omics techniques (including whole-genome bisulfite sequencing, ChIP-Seq and single cell sequencing) to understand if epigenetic remodeling contributes to the microbe-mediated shaping of the host immune system.
Breast milk is considered to be the best nutrition for the newborn as it contains the perfect balance of lipids, proteins, and carbohydrates, as well as high amounts of micronutrients that are crucial for neonatal growth. Many of the breast milk components are not only a nutrient source but are additionally biologically active, protect the neonate against pathogen- and immune-mediated diseases and drive the maturation of its immune system. By using gnotobiotic mouse models in combination with a variety of immunological and omics techniques, we aim to understand the role of the maternal microbiota in shaping breast milk composition and how this can contribute to immune homeostasis in the offspring.
Diet is the main factor shaping intestinal microbiota composition and both diet and microbiota themselves are known to affect the maturation and regulation of the host immune system. The interplay between those three factors at different time points in life are still not very well understood and are addressed in our group by the application of simplified models based on axenic and gnotobiotic mice fed very defined purified diets or dietary components. These projects are part of the Interfaculty Research Cooperation OneHealth of the University of Bern.
In collaboration with the Women’s Hospital (Frauenklink) Bern, we are recruiting pregnant women in their last term of pregnancy. We follow maternal and infant microbiota over a period of 2-10 years after birth and address external factors such as breast milk and maternal diet on microbiota development and health of the infant. This study will allow us to answer important translational research questions.