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In vitro communities of nasal bacteria as a model for studying community dynamics and intervention

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UMCW06 - Microbial communities: current approaches and open challenges

By: Sandra Dedrick, Vaishnavi Warrier, Katherine P. Lemon, and Babak Momeni Despite the impact of human associated microbiota on our health, there is no systematic approach to sway microbiota composition towards a desired state. Such a systematic approach involves two fundamental steps: a reliable model capable of predicting microbiota dynamics and an intervention scheme that is feasible and effective even when the microbiota is poorly characterized. However, for most microbiota, the complexity burden—the presence of too many interacting species engaged in mostly uncharacterized interactions—puts this approach out of reach. A promising platform to avoid the above shortcomings is nasal microbiota, with the unique advantage that it often contains only a handful of dominant species and almost all of those species can be cultivated reliably in the lab. We propose in-vitro communities of nasal bacteria as a model system to develop the modeling and control strategies. We show that when the environment is low-nutrient (i.e., when growth is limited by the availability of nutrients) and complex (i.e., when multiple resources, rather than a few, determine growth), a simple model for community dynamics can be developed. We then assess the effectiveness of intervention—using engraftment as a target function—when the interaction network for the microbiota is only partially characterized. In addition to their impact on respiratory health, insights from in-vitro nasal bacterial communities serve as a stepping stone towards rational control of more complex microbiota.

This talk is part of the Isaac Newton Institute Seminar Series series.

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