Sphingolipids, the gut microbiome, and obesity
The processing of undigestible food sources by the resident bacteria of the human gut is estimated to account for up to 10% of extracted calories from daily food intake. However, it is not well known how the varied metabolic capacities of specific microbial species can influence host fat metabolism and energy storage. My research is dedicated to understanding how prominent species in the human gut with the capacity to synthesize and metabolize a class of lipids called sphingolipids, are able to influence human lipid and glucose homeostasis. Abnormal sphingolipid levels are associated with diabetes, obesity, and metabolic syndrome. Determining the microbial contribution to host sphingolipid levels and synthesis could lead to new ways to modulate pathways involved in excessive weight gain on western diets.