Life Science Hour Seminar Series

Name:Larry Forney
Title:Causes and consequences of temporal changes in the vaginal microbiome
Date:Thursday, 1 March 2018
Location:Murie Life Science Bldg, Murie Auditorium.


Bacterial communities in the human vagina exist in a mutualistic relationship with their host and play an important role maintaining health and preventing diseases. Cross sectional studies of vaginal community composition have shown that five kinds of communities commonly occur in reproductive age women. Four of these are dominated by lactic acid bacteria that provide key ecosystem services; mainly creation of a low pH environment that precludes colonization by nonindigenous species. Communities in the fifth group have reduced proportions of lactobacilli and increased proportions of various strictly anaerobic bacteria. Our work and that of others has shown that vaginal communities are dynamic on a temporal scale with changes in species composition that are sometimes precipitous and large as well as distinctly personalized. The common instability of vaginal communities is worrisome because it may create windows of increased risk to vaginal infections and other diseases. Ongoing studies are directed toward discovering the drivers of vaginal community dynamics and developing models that will predict changes in their behavior over time.

About the Speaker:

I have nearly 30 years of experience conducting research in the areas of microbial physiology, community ecology, and the adaptive evolution of bacteria. During the past 20 years, I have conducted numerous studies on the microbial ecology of the human vagina across a woman’s lifetime. More recently I have extended this work on the human microbiome to include amniotic fluid, skin, semen, and the gastrointestinal tract. In these studies I have been part of interdisciplinary studies done to explore the complex array of factors that influence the function, composition, structure and dynamics of the human microbiome by assembling and analyzing multi-omic datasets. In addition, I conduct research to identify factors drive the tempo and trajectory of microbial evolution. The overarching goal of this research has been to understand the emergence and maintenance of diversity in microbial populations. Our focus has been on evolutionary processes in spatially structured environments using biofilms as a model system. Finally, I am principal investigator of an NIH Center of Biomedical Research Excellence focused on interdisciplinary research in computational and evolutionary biology that has been continuously funded for 15 years. These research themes will provide trainees with opportunities to conduct interdisciplinary research that can be translated to maintain women’s health and contribute fundamentally new knowledge about adaptive evolution of microorganisms.

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