Leverages advanced technologies to investigate infectious diseases, human and other mammalian microbiomes, and their clinical impact.
The world of microbial and infectious disease research is undergoing a revolution as a result of disruptive new technologies such as next-generation sequencing (NGS). NGS comprises a set of methods that allows one to obtain vastly more DNA sequence information (with a >100,000-fold increase in this capability since completion of the Human Genome Project) at a fraction of the cost (with a >100,000-fold reduction in unit cost). While this technology has opened the doors to human genetic analysis and has had enormous clinical implications, it has had an equally dramatic impact on the study of the microbiome using metagenomics, and on microbial research in general.
The study of the microbiome using metagenomics is just one area that has been heavily impacted by this new technology. A second major area of impact has been infectious disease research - from the tracking of outbreaks to a detailed mechanistic understanding of infectious disease at the individual level and on a wider public health scale. Our group is actively engaged in investigating all of these areas.
All of these activities are Big Data projects requiring significant computational resources. Another focus is development of computational tools both to manage Big Data and convert that data into knowledge.
Metagenomics research on the microbiome
The advent of Big Data approaches like NGS has made it possible to analyze the microbiome, the complex ensemble of microbes living on and in the human body. Owing to these approaches it is now possible to investigate microbiome structure, comprised of thousands of microbes, in healthy subjects, as well as the ways in which this structure changes in disease states. Dr. Weinstock is a leader in this arena and is developing new collaborations with clinicians in the Hartford, Connecticut area to study the microbiome in clinical venues. The clinical samples from his collaborators are processed, sequenced and analyzed at JAX Genomic Medicine with the goal of developing new diagnostic procedures (cheaper, faster, more accurate ) for infection as well as microbiome-associated disease. In addition, understanding the mechanistic role of the microbiome in disease focuses on new therapies.
Translational research: moving NGS into the clinic
The Weinstock lab has been actively developing programs with members of the University of Connecticut Health Center, Connecticut Children’s Medical Center (CCMC) and Hartford Hospital to bring expertise in infectious disease genomics to bear on clinical problems posed by infectious diseases. The group works to both use NGS as well as develop new methods to predict and treat infection in patients who are at risk due to their clinical condition. This methodology will have broader applications for many aspects of healthcare, as the risk of infection is significant in all areas of the hospital environment.
The Weinstock lab is also developing programs with the diagnostic laboratories at UCHC and Hartford Hospital to identify ways in which NGS technology can be used to analyze the diverse array of samples that clinicians routinely encounter. The goal of all of these collaborations will be to apply NGS methodology to real-world clinical samples, with data production and analysis being performed at JAX-GM and results then being returned to physician colleagues at these local institutions for clinical interpretation.
Using mouse models to study the microbiome
The Weinstock lab is working with researchers in Bar Harbor as well as the mouse breeding unit to investigate the role of the microbiome in mouse models of disease as well as the effect of the microbiome on the mouse as a model system.
These studies will both improve the mouse as a model system ass well as provide insight into the relationship of the human microbiome to disease.