Research


 

The Hunter lab uses ecological approaches to define the environmental chemistry of the airways, understand how microbes adapt, and how to manipulate this niche to slow disease development.  Efforts are focused on three main areas of emphasis: 

Lung environmental chemistry

The main research thrust of the lab focuses on host-microbe interactions and probing the effect of in vivo environmental chemistry on the dynamics of polymicrobial infections. For example, the primary sources of energy for bacterial growth in the respiratory tract are poorly characterized. Our lab is defining the microbe-microbe and host-microbe interactions that sustain the bioavailable carbon budget in the infected respiratory tract, and the metabolic strategies cystic fibrosis pathogens use to obtain these resources. 


In vivo imaging of respiratory bacterial communities
The composition of the lung microbiota in both health and disease has been thoroughly described. By comparison, mechanistic details of their specific contributions to airway disease are relatively understudied.  As a step in this direction, the Hunter lab uses a combination of genomic and high resolution imaging tools to study bacterial transcriptional and translational processes in vivo at the single cell level. 

Microbial ecology of chronic rhinosinusitis:
Bacterial sinusitis affects more than 15% of the population, though the microbiology of this disease remains poorly understood. Recent 16S sequencing efforts have implicated a number of suspected pathogens, but bacterial metabolic strategies and their specific contributions to upper airway disease are not yet known. We utilize a combination of single cell imaging, proteomics, and geochemical measurements (pH, O2, nutrient sources) to characterize the ecological dynamics of chronic sinus infections.