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Blaise Boles

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Primary Appointment: LSA Molec./Cell./Develop. Bio
PubMed Name: boles br
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  The Boles lab utilizes molecular, genetic, biochemical, and ecological approaches to understand the microbial ecology of humans. Only one in ten of the cells constituting a human being is mammalian the rest are microbes and small multicellular organisms. The association between these microbes and mammalian cells is a living structure that we think of as the human body. One can think of our bodies as complex ecosystems that provide a variety of environments - each of which is populated by a distinct microbial community. These complex communities of microorganisms associated with the human body plays a key role in health and disease. Our vision is to gain knowledge about how bacteria colonize, persist in, and disperse from these human ecosystems and transfer this knowledge to better diagnosis, treat, and prevent infectious disease.

Staphylococcus aureus is a human commensal that commonly lives in our noses and on our skin and much of our current research focus centers around this bacterium. When given the opportunity to enter our bodies S. aureus can be a dangerous pathogen that causes significant morbidity and mortality. Before the discovery of antibiotics the mortality rate for S. aureus infections approached 90%. As antibiotic resistance spreads and disturbingly aggressive S. aureus strains emerge, there is an urgent need to understand the lifestyle of this wily bacterium in order to develop innovative treatment strategies.

Approximately 30% of healthy individuals are colonized with S. aureus. The ability of S. aureus to inhabit mammals and cause disease is dependent on the coordinated regulation of a diverse array of virulence factors. In many cases, this ultimately results in the colonization of mammalian surfaces and the formation of a bacterial biofilm. The challenge presented by biofilm infections is the remarkable resistance to both host immune responses and available chemotherapies. In response to certain environmental cues, bacteria living in biofilms are capable of using active mechanisms to leave biofilms and return to the planktonic (free-living) state in which sensitivity to antimicrobials is regained. Therefore an improved understanding of the molecular mechanisms of biofilm detachment could facilitate the discovery of innovative treatment options.

Current work is focused on elucidating molecular mechanisms employed by S. aureus to colonize, persist on, and disperse from biologically relevant surfaces. We are also uncovering mammalian host factors and poly-microbial interactions that influence these processes.