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Research in the Ward laboratory is conducted on bacteria, and focuses on evolutionary cell biology and ecology. We have a particular interest in the unusual endomembranes of planctomycete bacteria (especially Gemmata obscuriglobus), how these features evolved within the planctomycete lineage, and their functional consequences for the biology of the cell. While most of our recent work has been on the spatial organization of gene expression, we are also interested in other structural and functional aspects of the endomembranes.

Most of our ecology work is conducted within the human gastrointestinal tract, where we are examining the contribution of the gut microbiome to pediatric health and disease. Our primary focus is on Hirschsprung’s disease, a developmental defect of the enteric nervous system that often leads to enterocolitis, a serious inflammatory condition. Our recent work suggests that the primary developmental defect alters early microbial colonization of the gut, which may predispose these patients to enterocolitis. A future goal is to apply an improved understanding of these processes to the development of more effective clinical interventions.

News
Sean_face_crop May 11 2017: Sean presented his work at the 3rd Planctomycetes-Verrucomicrobia-Chlamydiae conference in Portugal. Always a great meeting and always a fabulous European location. It was great to catch up with our PVC community.
May 18 2017: Emily has been selected as a Wyoming Research Scholar. Congratulations Emily!
May 23 2017: Congratulations to Bailey who has been awarded a Wyoming NASA Space Grant Undergraduate Research Fellowship.

Recent lab papers

Wang, F., et al.,  2016. Detecting microbial dysbiosis associated with pediatric Crohn’s disease despite the high variability of the gut microbiota. Cell Reports 14(4):945-55.

Economopoulos, K.P., et al., 2016. Prevention of antibiotic-associated metabolic syndrome in mice by intestinal alkaline phosphatase. Diabetes Obesity and Metabolism 18(5):519-27.

Ward, N.L., et al.,  2016. Antibiotic treatment induces long-lasting changes in the fecal microbiota that protect against colitis. Inflammatory Bowel Diseases 22(10):2328-40.

Kushak, R.I., et al.,  2016. Analysis of the duodenal microbiome in autistic individuals; association with carbohydrate digestion. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition doi: 10.1097/MPG.0000000000001458. Epub ahead of print 2016 Nov 2.