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Avant Institute Symposium Reveals Innovations

Highlights the role of microorganisms in health and wellbeing.


By: Melissa Meisel

Avant Institute Symposium Reveals Innovations

Microorganisms are ubiquitous in the environment. Some may cause disease, but most do not. More than 100 trillion live within the human gut, mouth, skin and other mucosal surfaces. Studies involving human-associated microorganisms suggest that large numbers of microorganisms assist in maintaining processes necessary for a healthy body. Changes in the human microbiome, however, may result in disease, or contribute to prevention. At the Winter 2015 Avant Institute Symposium, experts in microorganisms and the microbiome presented the results of their latest research focused on microorganism intervention strategies.
“Microbiome research has grown from a single discipline to one that encompasses research across many different scientific fields, said Paul Mouser, Ph.D., principal scientist, Ashland Specialty Ingredients. “Expertise is required across a number of scientific disciplines to understand better the dynamic mechanisms that alter the microbial-host interface and to develop intervention strategies. The Avant Institute Symposium will bring together experts in a number of areas and leverage all this knowledge to develop strategies that will allow us to manipulate the microbial communities for the benefit of human health and wellbeing.”
Dr. Julia Oh, from the Jackson Laboratory, will outline how sequence-based analysis of microbial community structure and organization has yielded valuable insights into the microbial diversity and function of its different body niches. According to Dr. Oh, understanding the function, structure and dynamics of the microbiome is important to design therapeutics that precisely target the pathogen of interest, yet spare the surrounding beneficial microbiota.
Professor Elizabeth Grice, from the Department of Dermatology, School of Public Health, University of Pennsylvania, will discuss cutaneous host-microbe interactions. Dr. Grice hypothesizes, based on laboratory investigations, that disruption of these interactions during wound healing leads to impaired healing and infectious complications.
Dr. Petros Gebreselassie, Ph.D., technical manager, Ashland Specialty Ingredients, will outline strategies to eradicate harmful bacteria in an oral environment, a region that, historically, has been a challenge to control using antibacterial agents.
Dr. Karen Winkoswki, Ph.D., global technical director, Ashland Specialty Ingredients will discuss the concept of hurdle technology, wherein various factors that may affect microbial growth are considered to develop consumer care products that are less prone to microbial contamination.
“Understanding the mode of action of different preservatives and preservation technologies, exploiting their synergies and interactions with other formulation components and utilizing effective delivery systems, provides a scientific basis for the design of a successful preservation approach,” she said.
For more information about these and other research papers, visit the Avant Institute at

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