Sara Di Rienzi, Ph.D.
Sara Di Rienzi, Ph.D.
- Assistant Professor
Molecular Virology and Microbiology
Baylor College of Medicine
Houston, TX US
Professional StatementHormones released in the gut contribute to the etiology of metabolic, neurological, inflammatory, developmental, and infectious diseases. These are released by enteroendocrine cells in the epithelium lining the intestinal tract. The regulation of their release is governed by the gut environment, namely diet and the gut microbiota. My research dissects the interactions among diet, gut microbiota, and the host enteroendocrine cells. These events are especially important in the small intestine, where the microbiome is directly exposed to the host’s diet. My work includes experimental and bioinformatic analysis of the composition and metabolic output of the gut microbiome (in mice and defined in vitro communities in bioreactors) and host metabolite and gene expression profiling (in conventional and germfree mice and in human intestinal enteroids). Bioreactors and the training I have in experimental evolution and microbiome science as well as collaborators in Nutrition allow for the study of how diet alters gut microbes. Enteroids, my training in genome sciences, and assistance from collaborators in human physiology and Pediatrics then allow for the study how these diet-altered microbes affect gut hormones. Recently, I have begun working with an organ donation group, LifeGift, which is providing the entire gastrointestinal tract of organ donors. This unique collaboration is facilitating ex vivo experiments on regions of the human gut (like the small intestine) that are otherwise inaccessible for study. My first works elucidated the interaction between small intestinal microbes and dietary long chain fatty acids in the small intestine. These works asked both how the small intestinal microbiome is altered by long term exposure to soybean oil diets and how the host’s fat absorption of soybean oil is affected by its microbiota. A later work detailed the effect of folate and choline deficient diets on the small intestinal microbiome. My current and ongoing research is characterizing novel hormone secreting cells in the gut and how gut microbes regulate the release of these novel gut hormones. The ultimate goals of my research are to improve treatment of diseases through effective and informed use of diet and beneficial microbes.
- Interactions among diet, gut microbiota, and the host enteroendocrine cells
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