Joshua J. Woodward, Ph.D.

Title
Assistant Professor
Department
Department of Microbiology
Institution
University of Washington
Address
1959 NE Pacific Street
Box 357735
City, State, Zip
Seattle, WA 98195-7735
Phone
(206) 221-7088
E-mail
jjwoodwa[at]uw.edu
Website
https://sites.google.com/site/jjwoodwauw/home
Research Field
Microbiology
Award Year
2015

Research

I aim to investigate how microbes in the gut send health-promoting signals to the rest of the body. Studies have shown that intestinal inhabitants can influence our immune system, metabolic balance, and susceptibility to infections. To stimulate such widespread effects on our overall physiology, these organisms must be able to communicate with our cells through hormone-like signaling molecules that alter the activity of our genes. In preliminary studies, I have determined that a commonly prescribed probiotic that contains eight species of "good" bacteria activates a family of human proteins known to be involved in immunity and metabolism. I will identify the signaling molecules produced by these probiotic microbes, determine which of the bacteria secrete them, and assess whether these molecules delay disease progression in diabetic and obese mice. I will then engineer the bacteria to produce an optimal brew of health-promoting hormones-- work that could lead to better probiotics and novel therapies for a variety of human ailments, from obesity to autoimmune disease.