Title:  Host and environmental determinants of gut microbiome: lessons from Dutch population studies

Speaker: Professor Alexandra (Sasha) Zhernakova, University Medical Center Groningen, Department of Genetics, The Netherlands

Abstract: The gut microbiome is associated with diverse diseases, yet no universal signature distinguishing a healthy from an unhealthy microbiome has been identified. At the Groningen Microbiome Hub, we collaborate closely with the Lifelines population cohort to investigate the dynamics of gut microbiome development and its changes throughout life. This presentation will detail our work on the Dutch Microbiome Project, which has collected gut microbiome samples from 10,000 Dutch individuals across three generations and 2,756 families. This cohort has been analyzed for 241 host and environmental factors, including physical and mental health, medication use, diet, socioeconomic factors, and genetics. I will specifically focus on our analysis of host genetics in relation to gut microbes, a study conducted in collaboration with the international MiBioGen consortium. Additionally, I will discuss our studies on the early life microbiome and virome as part of the longitudinal cohort LLNEXT, which includes 1,500 families. For this cohort, stool, breast milk, oral, nasal, skin, and vaginal samples were collected for microbiome studies, along with extensive health measurements. I will present the initial results of the gut microbiome and virome analysis, highlighting significant findings and their implications.


Bio: After obtaining her M.D., Sasha Zhernakova worked as a clinical geneticist in the St. Petersburg Center of Medical Genetics. In 2002, she started her research career in the Netherlands by first working in a volunteer position in the Department of Genetics, University Medical Center Utrecht and then continuing as a lab analyst and Ph.D. student (2005–2009) in the group of Prof. Cisca Wijmenga. Her PhD work was focused on genetics of complex diseases, and specific genetics of immune-related diseases. Her postdoctoral research was performed in the Department of Rheumatology at Leiden University Medical Center and Harvard Medical School. In her research, Sasha aims to understand the pathogenesis of human diseases by combining studies of genetics, exposome and microbiome and investigating their effect on human health.

About School research seminars

Seminars cover all aspects of chemistry and molecular biosciences and are delivered by visiting national and international academics. PhD completion seminars are also incorporated into the program.

Seminars are usually held in person and occasionally via zoom. All are welcome to attend.  



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