UCLA faculty members with interest in microbiome research, but without current funding

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Lin Chang, MD
Director, Functional GI Disroders Program, UCLA Oppenheimer Family Center for Neurobiology of Stress; Division of Digestive Diseases, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA
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Lin Chang, MD, is a Professor of Medicine in the Department of Medicine, Division of Digestive Diseases, at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. She serves as the Co-Director of the Center for Neurobiology of Stress at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. She is also Director of the Digestive Health and Nutrition Clinic at UCLA. Dr. Chang’s clinical expertise is in functional gastrointestinal disorders which include irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), chronic constipation, and functional dyspepsia. Dr. Chang’s research is focused on the pathophysiology of IBS related to stress, sex differences, and neuroendocrine alterations and the treatment of IBS. She is a funded NIH-investigator studying the central and peripheral mechanisms underlying IBS.

She is the recipient of the Janssen Award in Gastroenterology for Basic or Clinical Research and the AGA Distinguished Clinician Award, Dr. Chang has authored more than 70 original research articles, 48 review articles, and 19 book chapters on her specialty interests and is a frequent speaker at national and international meetings. She is a fellow of the American Gastroenterological Association and American College of Gastroenterology, and a member of the Society for Neuroscience. Dr. Chang serves as an Associate Editor of the American Journal of Gastroenterology. She is a member of the Rome Foundation Board of Directors, the Rome IV Editorial Board and the Rome IV Functional Bowel Disorders Committee. She is President of the American Neurogastroenterology and Motility Society (ANMS). She served on the FDA GI Advisory Committee from 2005-2010 which she also chaired.

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Swapna Joshi, PhD
Assistant Project Scientist, Center for Systems Biomedicine; Oppenheimer Center for Neurobiology of Stress; David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA
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Address 10833 Le Conte Avenue Center for Health Sciences 42-210 MC:737818 Los Angeles CA 90095 Phone: (310) 825-6493

Dr. Swapna (Mahurkar) Joshi received her undergraduate and Master’s degree in Genetics at Osmania University, Hyderabad, India. She received her Ph.D. from Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad, India. Her research interests as postdoctoral scholar at University of Southern California, Los Angeles, as well as University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) have been geared towards understanding mechanisms of various diseases including obesity, cancer and functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorders using various molecular biology and bioinformatics tools. As an assistant project scientist at UCLA, her research includes using various bioinformatics approached for integrating different data types such as, gene expression, genetic, epigenetic and microbial data to gain meaningful insights into the etiopathology of functional GI diseases including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Dr. Joshi has published over 23 papers in peer reviewed high impact journals.

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Helen Lavretsky, MD
Professor in Residence, Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA
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Phone: (310) 794-4619

Dr. Helen Lavretsky is the Geriatric Psychiatrist at UCLA with research interests in treatment and prevention of mood and cognitive disorders of aging. Her studies have already shown that mind-body exercise such as yoga and Tai Chi can help to reduce depression and cognitive decline in aging adults and in stressed caregivers. Current research studies offer participation in Tai Chi and yoga studies, as well as pharmacological studies for geriatric depression and mild cognitive impairment.

Dr. Lavretsky aims to investigate the role of microbiota in late life mood and cognitive disorders by comparing microbiome composition in those with and without mood and cognitive symptoms, and to develop interventions targeting microbiota and wellness for prevention of mood disorders and cognitive decline in older adults.

Relevant Recent Publications

  1. Lee S.M., Lavretsky H. “Microbiota and disorders of aging” IN: Complementary and Integrative Therapies for Mental Health and Aging. Eds: Lavretsky, Sajatovic, Reynolds, Oxford University Press [in press].

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Karin Michels, ScD, PhD
Professor and Chair, Department of Epidemiology, Fielding School of Public Health
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Address 71-264 CHS Campus 177220 Los Angeles CA 90095 Phone: (310) 825-8579

Dr. Michels is Professor and Chair of the Department of Epidemiology in the Fielding School of Public Health. Prior to her appointment at UCLA, she was an associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Biology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, in Boston, MA. She received her doctorate in epidemiology from Harvard University and her doctorate in Biostatistics from Cambridge University, UK. Dr. Michels has expertise in epidemiologic methods, and epigenetic, nutritional, and cancer epidemiology. She is a co-founder of the new field of epigenetic epidemiology with her research focusing on the role of epigenetics in the developmental origins of health and disease (DoHaD).

Under the umbrella of the DoHaD hypothesis, Dr. Michels is involved in a number of large cohort studies. She is a principal investigator of the Early Life exposures in Latina Adolescents (ELLA) cohort, which focuses on the role of early life environmental chemical exposures and risk of breast cancer and the Harvard Epigenetic Birth Cohort (HEBC), which consists of 1,941 mother-infant dyads recruited to evaluate the role of epigenetics in the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease.

Dr. Michels will be incorporating the microbiome into some of these ongoing studies, with the goal of enhancing our understanding of the human microbiome in early life health and development. Specifically, she and Dr. Leah Stiemsma, a post-doctoral fellow in the Michels lab, will be focusing on three projects: the impact of the placental microbiome in infant health and development, the role of the mammary microbiome in breast cancer, and analysis of the microbiome as a mediator between diet and health.

Recent Relevant Publications

  1. Binder AM, LaRocca J, Lesseur C, Marsit CJ, Michels KB. Epigenome-wide and transcriptome-wide analyses reveal gestational diabetes is associated with alterations in the human leukocyte antigen complex. Clin Epigenetics. 2015;7:79.
  2. Non AL, Binder AM, Kubzansky LD, Michels KB. Genome-wide DNA methylation in neonates exposed to maternal depression, anxiety, or SSRI medication during pregnancy. Epigenetics. 2014;9(7):964-72.
  3. Harris HR, Willett WC, Vaidya RL, Michels KB. An adolescent and early adulthood dietary pattern associated with inflammation and the incidence of breast cancer. Cancer Res. 2017;77(5):1179 – 87.
  4. Barrow TM, Barault L, Ellsworth RE, Harris HR, Binder AM, Valente AL, Shriver CD, Michels, KB. Aberrant methylation of imprinted genes is associated with negative hormone receptor status in invasive breast cancer. Int J Cancer. 2015;137(3):537-47.
  5. Stiemsma LT, Arrieta MC, Dimitriu PA, Cheng J, Thorson L, Lefebvre DL, Azad MB, Subbarao P, Mandhane P, Becker A, Sears MR, Kollmann TR, CHILD Study Investigators, Mohn WW, Finlay BB*, Turvey SE*. Shifts in Lachnospira and Clostridium sp. in the 3-month stool microbiome are associated with preschool age asthma. Clin Sci (Lond). 2016;130(23):2199-207.
  6. Arrieta MC*, Stiemsma LT*, Dimitriu PA, Thorson L, Russell S, Yurist-Doutsch S, Kuzeljevic B, Gold MJ, Britton HM, Lefebvre DL, Subbarao P, Mandhane P, Becker A, McNagny KM, Sears MR, Kollmann, T, Child Study Investigators, Mohn WW, Turvey SE*, Finlay BB*. Early infancy microbial and metabolic alterations affect risk of childhood asthma. Sci Transl Med. 2015;7(307):307ra152. *Equal contribution.

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Victoria Niklas, MD, MA
Professor, Department of Pediatrics, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA; Director, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and Newborn Services, Olive View-UCLA Medical Center
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Dr. Victoria Niklas is a Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and the Director of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and Newborn Services at Olive View-UCLA Medical Center. Dr. Niklas earned her medical degree from Harvard Medical School and a master’s degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Harvard University. She completed her residency in pediatrics at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and a fellowship in perinatal and neonatal medicine at UCLA.

Dr. Niklas has over 25 years of experience as a clinician investigator and neonatologist integrating basic and translational science in diseases afflicting the newborn. Her career has focused on understanding the immune system in the susceptibility of the newborn to infection and inflammation in the body’s largest mucosal surface, the intestine. She is a recognized expert in mouse models of intestinal immune T cell development and the pathogenesis of intestinal inflammation, in diseases such as necrotizing enterocolitis, a life-threatening intestinal disease of primarily premature infants. More recently, she was the site PI for a phase I/II RCT of enteral human recombinant lactoferrin evaluating its role in reducing hospital-acquired infections (HAI) in very low birth weight infants. Lactoferrin was safe and reduced HAI in premature infants. Also, the normally pathogenic flora was reduced in the feces of lactoferrin treated infants when compared to controls, suggesting one possible mechanism whereby lactoferrin reduced HAI in these infants.

Dr. Niklas wishes to extend these studies by exploring metagenomic signatures of maternal disease (such as obesity) in the taxonomic composition of the gut microbiota acquired by the newborn at birth. Well-described microbial signatures of obesity in adults may result in disease-associated microbial signatures in the newborn intestine. Hence, maternal flora may have a long-lasting impact on the infant’s later risk of diseases, such as obesity, in later life. The reduction in childhood obesity among breastfed infants suggests that components in breast milk (lactoferrin, milk’s microbiome, or milk oligosaccharides) may lower this risk. Possibly by influencing heritability or stability of an obesity-associated intestinal microbiome. Advanced genomic tools and sequencing will be used to explore the composition and diversity of this microbiome between mother and baby. It is, however, envisioned, that a “Mother Baby Cohort” will serve as a springboard for extended “life studies” enabling interdisciplinary, interventional and observational studies of health and disease. These endeavors will advance knowledge and ultimately improve care practices in the management in the perinatal interface with a far-reaching impact on our understanding of health and the origins of disease throughout life.

Relevant Recent Publications

  1. Sherman MP, Miller MM, Sherman J, Niklas V. Lactoferrin and necrotizing enterocolitis. Curr Opin Pediatr. 2014 Apr; 26(2): 146-50. PubMed PMID: 24503532.
  2. Sherman MP, Zaghouani H, Niklas V. Gut microbiota, the immune system, and diet influence the neonatal gut-brain axis. Pediatr Res. 2015 Jan; 77(1-2): 127-35. PubMed PMID: 25303278.
  3. Sherman MPS, Adamkin DH, Radmacher PG, Sherman J and Niklas V. Protective Proteins in Human Milk: Lactoferrin Steps Forward. NeoReveiws 13(5): 293-301, 2012.
  4. Sherman MP, Sherman J, Arcinue R and Niklas V. Lactoferrin meets the NICU Habitat: Effects on the fecal microbiome of VLBW infants. Submitted, 2015.
  5. Sherman MP, Adamkin DH, Niklas V, Radmacher P Sherman J, Wertheimer F and Petrak K. Randomized Trial of Human Recombinant Lactoferrin (Talactoferrin) Oral Solution in Preterm Infants, In preparation 2015

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Charalobos Pothoulakis, MD
Director of Research, UCLA Center for Inflammatory Bowel Diseases; Professor, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Digestive Diseases/Gastroenterology, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA
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Address 675 Charles E. Young Dr. South MRL RM# 1240, Box 957019 Los Angeles CA 90095 Phone: (310) 825-9104

Dr. Pothoulakis is the Eli and Edythe Broad Professor of Medicine at the Department of Medicine at UCLA. He is the Director of the IBD Research Center, and the Chair of Research at the Division of Digestive Diseases at UCLA.. He is currently an Associate Editor for the American Journal of Physiology, Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology and a member of the founding Editorial Board of the new AGA Journal Cellular and Molecular Gastroenterology and Hepatology. He is also the Chair of the Regulatory Peptides, Cell Signaling and Molecular Biology Section of the AGA. He is an author of over 185 original articles and numerous reviews and book chapters. His research program is primarily focused on the role of neuropeptides and hormones in several disease states, including Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Dr. Pothoulakis has been contributing to the Clostridium difficile field since its inception and published over 100 manuscripts in mechanisms of action of this pathogen and its toxins. He also works on mechanisms of probiotics in intestinal inflammation and he is one of the pioneers in this field. Dr. Pothoulakis’ research projects have been supported by multiple grants from the National Institutes of Health with no interruption over the past 25 years, as well as by grants from the Broad Foundation, the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation and several pharmaceutical companies.

Relevant Recent Publications

  1. Kokkotou E, Moss AC, Torres D, Karagiannides I, Cheifetz A, Liu S, O’Brien M, Maratos-Flier E, Pothoulakis C. Melanin-Concentrating Hormone as a mediator of intestinal inflammation. Proc Natl Acad Sci (USA) 2008; 105:10613-8 PMCID: PMC2492477
  2. Savidge TC, Urvil P, Oezguen N, Kausar A, Choudhury A, Acharya V, Pinchuk I, Torres AG, English RD, Wiktorowicz JE, Leoffelholz M, Kumar R, Shi L, Nie W, Feng H, Braun W, Herman B, Stamler JS, Pothoulakis C. Host S-nitrosylation inhibits clostridial small molecule-activated glucosylating toxins. Nature Medicine; 2011; 17(9):1136-41. PMCID: PMC3277400
  3. Koon HW, Ho S, Hing TC, Cheng M, Chen X, Ichikawa Y, Kelly CP, Pothoulakis C. Fidaxomicin inhibits Clostridium difficile toxin A–mediated enteritis in the mouse ileum. Antimicr Agents Chemother 2014; 58(8):4642-50.
  4. Chen X, Fruehauf J, Katchar KK, Mustafa N, Koon HW, Xu H, Zhao D, Kokkotou E, Goldsmith JD, Pothoulakis C, Kelly CP. Saccharomyces boulardii inhibits EGF receptor signaling and intestinal tumor growth in Apc(min) mice. Gastroenterology 2009; 137:914-23
  5. Pothoulakis C. Review Article: anti-inflammatory mechanisms of action of Saccharomyces boulardii. Alim Pharmacol Ther, 2009 ; 30(8):826-33.

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Sang Hoon Rhee, PhD
Adjunct Associate Professor, Division of Digestive Diseases, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA
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Dr. Rhee’s research focuses on studying roles of host-microbial interaction in the gastrointestinal tract. Specifically, the lab has been investigating the function of Toll-like receptors (TLRs) which is a family of pattern recognition receptor recognizing microbial products to elicit inflammatory and innate immune responses. Recently, Dr. Rhee demonstrated that TLR5 is associated with the development and progress of inflammatory bowel diseases. Moreover, Dr. Rhee’s studies also showed that TLR5 plays an important role to elicit innate immunity to regulate anti-tumor activity. Studies to be presented will include a role of TLR5 in regulating colon cancer and a potential mechanism to modulate anti-tumor activity against colonic tumor. This research program has a record of continuous support from the NIH/NIDDK, Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, Flight Attendant Medical Research Institute at both UCLA and Harvard Medical School.

Relevant Recent Publications

  1. Choi YJ., Im E., Pothoulakis C., and Rhee SH. TRIF modulates TLR5-dependent responses by inducing proteolytic degradation of TLR5. (2010) The Journal of Biological Chemistry 285: 21382-21390. PMCID: PMC2898416.
  2. Choi YJ., Im E., Chung HK., Pothoulakis C., and Rhee SH. TRIF mediates Toll-like receptor 5-induced signaling in intestinal epithelial cells (2010) The Journal of Biological Chemistry 285:37570-37578. PMCID: PMC2988362.
  3. Im E., Riegler FM., Pothoulakis C., and Rhee SH. Elevated lipopolysaccharide in the colon evokes intestinal inflammation, aggravated in immune modulator-impaired mice. (2012) The American Journal of Physiology – Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology 303(4):G490-7. PMCID: PMC3423140. (Selected as an “Editor’s Pick” from the journal).
  4. Im E., Jung J., and Rhee SH.., Toll-like receptor 5 engagement induces IL-17C expression in intestinal epithelial cells. (2012) Journal of Interferon & Cytokine Research 32:583-591. PMCID: PMC3514012.
  5. Choi YJ., Jung J., Chung HK., Im E., and Rhee SH., PTEN regulates TLR5-induced intestinal inflammation by controlling Mal/TIRAP recruitment. (2013) The FASEB Journal 27:243-254. PMCID: PMC3528317
  6. Im E., Jung J, Pothoulakis C., and Rhee SH. Disruption of Pten speeds onset and increases severity of spontaneous colitis in Il10–/– mice. (2014) Gastroenterology 147:667-679. PMCID: PMC4143453.

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Photo of Elizabeth Volkmann, MD, MS
Elizabeth Volkmann, MD, MS
Clinical Instructor, Division of Rheumatology, Department of Medicine, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA
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Dr. Elizabeth Volkmann is a Clinical instructor in the Department of Medicine, Division of Rheumatology at UCLA. She is the Founder and Director of the Connective Tissue Disease-Interstitial Lung Disease (CTD-ILD) Integrative Clinic Program at UCLA. She received her medical degree from UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, and subsequently completed her residency in Internal Medicine and fellowships in Rheumatology and Medical Education at UCLA. During her fellowship, she participated in the Specialty Training and Advanced Research (STAR) Program and earned her Master of Science degree in Clinical Research.

Her clinical and research expertise is in systemic sclerosis (scleroderma), a rare and disabling autoimmune disease that affects gastrointestinal function in the majority of patients. She is currently the principal investigator of an innovative study to characterize the gastrointestinal tract microbiome in patients with systemic sclerosis. This study aims to investigate the hypothesis that the systemic sclerosis disease state is associated with altered colonic microbial composition at the human mucosal-luminal interface, and to determine whether certain microbial genera contribute to symptoms of gastrointestinal tract dysfunction in patients with systemic sclerosis. If affirmed, such genera could provide specific targets for intervention to avert or treat this important clinical dimension of systemic sclerosis.

Recent Relevant Publications/Presentations:

  1. Volkmann ER, Chang, Y-L, Barroso N, et al. Systemic sclerosis is associated with a unique colonic microbial consortium. Annals Rheumatic Diseases 2015;74:151.
  2. Volkmann ER. Systemic sclerosis is associated with a unique colonic microbial consortium. Oral Presentation at the European League Against Rheumatism Annual Congress, 2015. Rome, Italy.

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