Confronting the Mystery of the Microbiome(Jost lab)

HMS researcher Marco Jost works to decode the cross talk between microbes and their human hosts

Two years ago, with the unmistakable pop of a champagne cork, microbiologist Marco Jost launched his lab at Harvard Medical School. But that celebration was short-lived. Jost, sensing the vastness of the work ahead of him, set the bubbly aside and dove into his research on the human gut microbiome.

Jost, an assistant professor of microbiology in the Blavatnik Institute at HMS, is working to decipher how the bacteria, fungi, and viruses dwelling inside us regulate our metabolism, modulate the activity of our genes, alter our immunity and, ultimately, how they protect our health and shape our risk for disease.

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In recent years, science has made undeniable progress in understanding the human microbiome. Yet, the complex interplay between the trillions of microbes that inhabit our bodies and influence our health remains a biologic black box.

Jost’s lab seeks to decode the language of molecular communication between the human host and its microbes, using CRISPR-based gene editing tools, cell-based models to test the effects of different microbial molecules on various tissues and organs, and a variety of other approaches borrowed from disciplines including immunology, biochemistry, and chemical biology. 

Jost describes the microbiome as “a global influencer of human health.” Understanding how the microbiome exerts this influence, Jost adds, will be possible only by translating the precise molecular signals and chemical messages exchanged between microbes and their human hosts. 

Harvard Medicine News recently spoke with Jost to learn more about his work.

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