The human body is home to tens of trillions of taxonomically diverse microorganisms (i.e. bacteria, archaea, eukaryotes, and viruses) that perform several essential symbiotic functions including facilitating the development and maturation of a healthy immune system. It has been hypothesized that changes in the diversity or disruptions in the functional resilience of the human microbiome can cause imbalances in the host immune system resulting in a potential loss of self-tolerance, and the development of autoimmunity. Therefore, the human microbiome may provide a missing link between the missing heritability of autoimmunity and the environment factors thought to contribute to its pathogenesis.
We are using next-generation sequencing technologies to characterize changes in the microbiota of SLE patients relative to healthy controls. We collect and bank stool, saliva, and skin samples from patients seen by our partnering OMRF lupus clinics. We employ advanced analytical pipelines to infer how altered microbial populations disrupt the functional potential of the microbiome to influence disease pathogenesis.