Metagenomics

Metagenomics is the study of genetic material recovered from a wide range of environments encompassing everything from the human lung microbiome to river bed sediments. This allows the study of entire microbial communities including previously unknown and unculturable microorganisms in their natural environment.
Metagenomics allows us to study not only the composition and functionality of a microbial community but novel algorithms allow us to assemble individual genomes from complex communities and even estimate the replication rate of these microbes.

Most of our knowledge regarding bacterial evolution originates from cultivation studies of single bacterial strains. However, it is becoming apparent that horizontal gene transfer amongst even distantly related organisms plays a large evolutionary role in natural environments. Metagenomics allows the study of in situ bacterial evolution and how microbiomes react to evolutionary pressure such as antibiotics or adapt to environmental effects such as drought.

Our group has a strong focus on the importance of extrachromosomal elements such as viruses and plasmids in bacterial evolution and also how they affect human health. In many different ecosystems, we are realizing the importance of a healthy microbiome. Recent studies have shown that viromes might be equally important for a healthy ecosystem. One curious example of this is that while fecal microbiota transplantation is used for the treatment of Clostridium difficile infections, fecal virome transplantation has a similar effect. However, exactly how virome transplantation can facilitate the establishment of a healthy microbiome is not known. Similarly, we know that plasmids play a key role in the dissemination of heavy metal and antibiotic resistance genes, however, we have little clue as to how origin and initial mobilization of these resistance genes occur.

Our group incorporates the latest knowledge in microbiology with the newest sequencing technology and novel informatics approaches with the aim of exploring bacterial evolution using our developed bioinformatical tools and databases. We try to always have our projects done in close collaboration with clinicians, industry and wet-lab researchers to ensure that our research is applicable in the real world.

Contact

Gisle Alberg Vestergaard
Associate Professor
DTU Health Tech
+45 45 25 61 61