Associate Professor Ran Blekhman

CBS Genetics, Cell Bio, Dev
College of Biological Sciences
Twin Cities
Project Title: 
Genomics of Host-Microbiome Interactions

With the advent of next generation sequencing, it has become possible to examine entire genomes and transcriptomes of humans and other animals with relative ease. These data have been used to validate previously discovered biological mechanisms as well as to discover new phenomena that are implicated in diseases, such as cancer. This technological advance has also opened up new research possibilities by allowing scientists to survey and quantify the microbiome, the collection of microorganisms that reside in and on the bodies of humans and other animals. 

This group studies host genomic factors that control and interact with the microbiome. They use high-throughput genomics technologies and employ computational, statistical, network-theory, data-mining, and population genetic analytical approaches, with the goal of understanding how we interact with our microbial communities, how host-microbe interactions affect human disease, and how the symbiosis between us and our microbiome evolved. They have several ongoing projects, aiming to answer the following questions:

  • What are the molecular and genetic mechanisms controlling host-bacteria interactions? Which genes and pathways are involved in both the host and microbiome side?
  • How does host genetic variation control interactions with our microbiome? What are the effects of different environments and genetic backgrounds across human populations?
  • How did the complex symbiosis between us and our microbiome evolve throughout human history? Can we identify signatures of coevolution in human and microbial genomes?
  • How do host-microbiome interactions control susceptibility to complex disease? What are the unique roles of host genetics, bacterial communities, and environmental exposures?

Each of these research projects involves analyses of large genomic and metagenomic datasets using resources from MSI, including installed software, CPU time, storage space, and the parallel computing environment.

This research was featured on the MSI website in October 2015: Changes in the Human Gut Microbiome Caused by Colorectal Cancer.

Project Investigators

Richard Abdill
Beth Adamowicz
Mattea Allert
Associate Professor Ran Blekhman
Trevor Gould
Laura Grieneisen
Monica Iram
Amanda Muehlbauer
Sambhawa Priya
Karen Tang
Are you a member of this group? Log in to see more information.