Donato Research Group: Biochemistry
Bacteria play a role in almost all processes at work on the planet. From global warming to feeding the hungry to treating disease, many of the challenges that face us, as well as the potential solutions to these problems, can be traced back to bacteria. Despite their abundance (it is estimated that approximately 90% of the cells in the human body are bacterial!) and importance, little is known about the overwhelming majority of bacteria. After all, less than 1% of bacteria, are readily culturable under standard laboratory conditions; leaving the rest of the bacterial community virtually unexplored. However, advances in technology coupled with increased interest and funding are enabling researchers to unlock the secrets of the microbial world.
Health depends on a delicate balance between the body and its resident microbes. There is growing evidence that many human diseases are caused by bacterial residents of the human body. In addition to infectious diseases, these include chronic inflammatory diseases, autoimmune diseases, and certain cancers. Therefore, a robust arsenal of antibiotics and ways to manage resistance are likely to be of increasing importance in medical practice.
We will use the inherent diversity in microbial communities along with the tools of modern genomics to identify and characterize potential sources of antibiotic resistance. This information will be a valuable resource to aid in the development of new drugs and to prolong the useful lives of existing drugs by anticipating and managing resistance.
Surviving Other Stresses
Antibiotics represent just a few of the many potentially lethal chemicals that bacteria face. We administer antibiotics with the hope in mind that these chemicals will kill off microbial pests. On the other hand, many bacteria are beneficial to us. Their ability to detoxify the toxic chemicals in their natural habitats greatly impacts our daily lives. Our group uses functional metagenomics to identify the enzymes that enable bacteria to thrive under toxic conditions in an effort to understand the roles these molecular machines play in their host organisms.
Joining the Donato Lab
If exploring the molecular diversity of the bacterial world interests you and you would like to join our group, please contact me at email@example.com.
Please click the following link to see recent publications from Dr. Donato