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VMC Projects

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Vaginal Human Microbiome Project
The Vaginal Human Microbiome Project at VCU is funded by the NIH Roadmap Human Microbiome Project and has the goal of elucidating the roles of the women's urogenital conditions, physiological states, environmental factors and host genetic components to the structure and composition of the vaginal microbiome. Thousands of visitors to outpatient clinics and hundreds of twin pairs have enrolled and contributed tens of thousands of samples and phenotype data to the study. The study repository includes samples from three vaginal sites (mid-vagina, cervix and introitus), the buccal mucosa and the perianal region.

         Specific Aims:
  • Do genes of the host contribute to the composition of the vaginal microbiome?
  • What changes in the microbiome are associated with common non-infectious pathological states of the host?
  • What changes in the vaginal microbiome are associated with relevant infectious diseases and conditions?

Three types of sequence data continue to be generated as part of our ongoing project: rDNA sequences from vaginal microbes, whole metagenome shotgun sequences from vaginal samples, and whole genome shotgun sequences of bacterial clones selected from vaginal samples. Our species-level analysis of the vaginal microbiome has revealed a diversity of microbial communities and interesting associations with physiological and infectious states. Additionally, we have characterized and compared the genomes of several previously uncharacterized species of importance to women's reproductive health. Our analysis of these rich datasets are ongoing. Please visit the publications page for more detailed information.

Principal Investigators: Gregory A. Buck, PhD; Kimberly K. Jefferson, PhD Jerome F. Strauss, III, MD, PhD; Lindon J. Eaves, PhD

Multi'Omic Microbiome Study-Pregnancy Initiative
The Multi-Omic Microbiome Study, Pregnancy Initiative (MOMS-PI) is a collaborative project with the Global Alliance to Prevent Prematurity and Stillbirth (GAPPS) based at Seattle Children's. Together, we are commited to understanding the impact of the vaginal microbiome on pregnancy, pregnancy-related complications and the impact on the fetal microbiome. Preterm birth is the leading cause of death in neonates, thus our efforts are largely focused on assessing the role of the microbiome on preterm birth and maternal-infant health.

         Specific Aims:
  • What is the impact of pregnancy on the maternal microbiome?
  • How does the microbiome effect maternal host response?
  • How do the maternal host response and microbiome influence risk of preterm birth, early infant microbiome acquisition and neonatal health?
  • What are the mechanisms by which the microbiome exerts effects on the female urogenital tract?

MOMS-PI is a multifaceted initiative to generate large and comprehensive datasets using six "omics" technologies: 1) metagenomic rRNA gene sequencing, 2) whole metagenomic shotgun sequencing, 3) metatranscriptomics, 4) metabolomics/lipidomics, 5) immunoproteomics and 6) interactomics. Samples will be collected at multiple timepoints throughout the course of pregnancy from a cohort of ~2000 women. We believe this large-scale, innovative effort will lead to insights into how the microbiome impacts risk for preterm birth and the temporal dynamics of the pregnancy microbiome. The pilot phase of the project has already begun, and we are currently seeking funding for the full initiative.

Principal Investigators: Gregory A. Buck, PhD; Kimberly K. Jefferson, PhD Jerome F. Strauss, III, MD, PhD

VCU Center on Health Disparities
The National Institute for Minority Health and Health Disparities’ (NIMHD) VCU Center of Excellence was established in 2007 with a P60 Award. The mission of the Center is to promote minority health and to lead, coordinate, support, reduce and ultimately eliminate health disparities. The Center’s primary focus is on the examination of adverse pregnancy outcomes, with a focus in African-American women, and the development of interventions to prevent such outcomes. Three research projects led by VMC members are currently funded through the Center: 1) VCU NIMHD Comprehensive Center of Excellence (PI:Strauss), 2) The Virulome of Preterm Birth (PI: Jefferson) and 3) Racial Differences in Epigenetic Mechanisms of Preterm Birth (PI: York).

Center Principal Investigator: Jerome F Strauss, III, MD, PhD
Project Principal Investigators: Kimberly K Jefferson, PhD; Timothy P York, PhD

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