Blaser Lab Group

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Members of Blaser Lab Group

Cynthia Portal


Cynthia Portal , Graduate Student


Complex microbial communities reside within the intestinal tract of humans. However, very little is known about how microorganisms establish and maintain stable niches in their hosts. How do bacteria behave within their host habitats? How different species establish and maintain a presence in the intestinal ecosystem?  How they interact with their host and other microbial community members. In which regions of the intestine does colonization take place?  The development of simplified model systems offers the opportunity to understand the basic mechanism underlying the interactions between intestinal microorganisms and their host. Caenorhabditis elegans possesses several key attributes that make it a distinctively powerful model organism for addressing these questions.

C. elegans is a small, free-living soil nematode that feeds primarily on bacteria. Its usefulness as a model organism is a result of its genetic tractability, rapid generation time, ease of propagation, a well-defined cell lineage map, and a fully sequenced genome that contains a large number of vertebrate orthologues.  Because C. elegans is genetically tractable, it has been used to study a variety of biological processes including, for example, ageing, apoptosis, chemosensation, and more recently bacterial pathogenesis and innate immunity. 

I am interested in characterizing bacterial proliferation inside the intestine of C. elegans by determining the role of C. elegans genotype on the overall bacterial load and pattern of intestinal colonization to better understand commensalism.  The transparency of this organism can be used to monitor microbial movement and localization within the intestine in vivo. We hypothesize that host signals play an important role in modulating intestinal bacterial colonization. Therefore, I am using defined C. elegans mutants to help me identify dominant host factors that shape bacterial colonization. An increased understanding of host-microbial interactions in the gut may offer new opportunities in the therapeutic arena, and will ultimately yield new strategies for the prevention and treatment of some infectious diseases in humans.


Medical Education: Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, 1993-1999

Residency Training: Internal Medicine, The American British Cowdray Medical Center, 2000-2002 Graduate Education: PhD candidate in Microbiology, September 2003- present


Cynthia Portal


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