Researcher of the Month: Dr. Sumeet Pandey
How did you get interested in your scientific work? I did my PhD in Biochemistry working on the genetic engineering of a probiotic E. coli strain. While performing experiments we observed that administration of probiotic E. coli to rats resulted in substantial anti-inflammatory effects.
This observation made me curious to look into the host-microbe interactions from an immune prospective. I applied for a grant to support my research in Oxford in Holm Uhlig's lab and extended my studies from animal models to the human immune system. In Oxford I worked on the role of enzymes that generate reactive oxygen species in maintaining gut barrier function.
Q: What are you working on now?
Currently I am trying to understand immunopathology in an patients with a diverse spectrum of rare genetic disorders that can present with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). My primary interest is to understand the role of bacteria-induced autophagy in macrophages by employing techniques such as culture techniques, confocal microscopy, FACS, or phospho-proteomics.
The presence of ~1014 gut microbiota makes it a challenging job for the host innate immune system to maintain gut homeostasis and macrophages are at the forefront of the immune system in the gut. Hundreds of proteins are involved in the handling of bacteria in macrophages and genetic mutations in these proteins can lead to severe gut inflammation. Understanding the diverse mechanisms how autophagy can be disturbed in monogenic diseases and thereby predispose to intestinal inflammation can serve as a translational platform for potential therapeutic approaches for patients with those rare disorders as well as for patients with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
Q: What do you enjoy the most about working in science?
For me the most amazing thing in science is to understand the enormous complexity of biological phenomena. Being a microbiologist and biochemist, it is interesting to study how bacteria can survive within the host and modulate host physiology. Examining the molecular mechanisms of these host microbe interactions and designing experiments how to influence those mechanisms to protect the host is fun and a way to contribute to the society for better life.