Dan Knights: How we study the microbes living in your gut
Dan Knights develops computational methods for doing precision medicine with gut bacterial communities, or microbiomes, and he applies those methods to study human disease. Full bio
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that's living in your gut,
It's the best-known of the gut microbes.
is outnumbered in your gut
you probably haven't heard of.
Prevotella is another example.
the modern human gut.
microbes living inside you.
living inside you --
if you took a blade of grass
living in your gut,
to life in modern society,
related to the gut
in developed nations all around the world.
someone who suffers from obesity,
or ulcerative colitis,
of healthy diversity in the gut.
to a monkey's microbiome
Do they pick up new bugs?
Does it get better or worse?
species in the jungle,
the DNA from their stool.
in my research lab.
is that in the wild,
totally different sets of microbes.
most of that diversity
some other set of microbes.
that we're talking about.
that's been burned to the ground
in a captive primate.
are not doing so well.
holding onto their lives.
very interested to find out
that are taking over in the zoo.
and what the DNA told us
by Bacteroides and Prevotella,
in our guts as modern humans.
from multivariate ecology
we were studying onto an axis.
is a distance plot
is a different animal's microbiome.
a whole zoo of microbes.
that have a lot of microbes in common
are farther apart.
are over on the left.
highly endangered monkeys
are monkeys from Costa Rica.
totally different microbiomes in the wild.
of monkey in the zoo are converging,
much more similar to each other,
on different continents,
and they're eating different diets.
some other species of primate.
do you think is even more divergent
than the captive primates?
living in developing nations.
from the wild primates
all the way on the right,
on the back of my neck,
"Oh, that's interesting,
to becoming like Americans."
are like super-captive monkeys.
at this figure on my computer screen
that four of the red-shanked doucs
living inside them
to the human part of the story.
as frequently as in the zoo,
of obesity, diabetes,
who have been living in the USA
and refugee groups,
for obesity and diabetes
this issue with two groups
from Southeast Asia:
in the mid-1970s
and the US secret war in Laos;
more recently as refugees from Myanmar.
communities and clinicians
to the Hmong and Karen microbiomes
and villages in Thailand to the USA.
come to the USA from these groups,
of their microbiome,
and become obese
a dramatic change in your microbiome,
actually causing the obesity,
a change in the microbes?
that we're following up on,
from a number of labs around the world
in the microbiome
kind of Westernized diseases.
your microbiome can actually change.
of research happening right now
how we can restore our microbiomes
from healthy people around the world
as cultural assets for those groups
as they adapt to modern society,
to have increased risk of these diseases
to restore and replenish our microbiomes,
will live happier and healthier lives,
ABOUT THE SPEAKERDan Knights - Computational microbiologist
Dan Knights develops computational methods for doing precision medicine with gut bacterial communities, or microbiomes, and he applies those methods to study human disease.
Why you should listen
Trillions of bacteria live in our guts, protecting us from infection and aiding our digestion, yet these communities are so complex that we need advanced computational methods to study them. In his multidisciplinary research lab, Dan Knights combines expertise in data mining and biology to learn about how modern lifestyles and medical practices are affecting our microbiomes and leading to increases in modern diseases.
Knights received his PhD in computer science from the University of Colorado, followed by a post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School. He has co-authored more than 70 highly cited articles in top multidisciplinary journals. In 2015 he was named a McKnight Land-Grant Professor by the University of Minnesota. His lab is building a next-generation informatics pipeline for microbiome-targeted drug discovery, linking nutrition and microbial activity to clinical outcomes.
Dan Knights | Speaker | TED.com