Winner: Bryan Hsu, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences, Virginia Tech

Co-Culture Champion

Unraveling Gut Secrets: The Role of Bacterial Viruses (Phages)

Dr. Hsu investigates the role of bacterial viruses (phages) in shaping the gut’s chemical environment and bacterial interactions. Using Cerillo’s Co-Culture System, his study will explore the potential for treatments related to gastrointestinal conditions. His research offers insights into how gut viruses influence bacterial interactions in the gut microbiota.

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How he will use Cerillo's Co-Culture Research Platform

Dr. Hsu’s primary objective is to characterize the influence of gut phages on metabolite availability and crossbreeding among bacteria in the gut microbiota. We expect to discover new principles in how phages influence colonizing communities of bacteria and to be able to develop therapeutics that can leverage these interactions. We use genetic engineering to modulate phage function and expect to apply these strategies as well.

Key metrics for co-culture: Usually we use selective plating to track individual species among co-cultures, but this severely limits the types of bacteria we can examine. They either need an engineered selection marker or selective plating conditions that can inhibit other species.

Benefits of using your co-culture system

Because of the physical separation between wells, this allows for nutrients to be shared but bacteria to be separated. Bacterial separation simplifies how we would quantify the individual species of interests, making it possible to rapidly quantify bacterial cell numbers by OD and not having to wait for 16S amplicon sequencing, which may not be able to distinguish between taxonomically similar species that may have very different functions.

Desired outcome:

I am hoping to demonstrate the significance of phage predation in communities of gut bacteria on crossbreeding and how they can support the growth of other species through cell lysis.