Mapping Microbiome Interactions in Human Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer accounts for more than 50,000 deaths in the United States annually. Recent studies suggest that microbes in the human gut play a crucial role. However, current technologies for studying gut microbiota cannot provide the genomic and spatial data needed to address pivotal research questions. DNA sequencing, for instance, does not capture the spatial context of microbes and their functional interactions in the gut. Imaging methodologies that use general species marker tags can identify only a small number of organisms.

Iwijn De Vlaminck, Ilana L. Brito, and Warren R. Zipfel, Biomedical Engineering, are creating a revolutionary molecular analysis technology—high phylogenetic resolution microbiome mapping by fluorescence in-situ hybridization (HiPR-FISH). This technology maps, with microscale resolution, the locations and identities of hundreds of different bacterial species in dense microbial communities. A flexible and inexpensive technology, HiPR-FISH increases by more than an order of magnitude the number of unique microbial species researchers can identify.

HiPR-FISH will provide a powerful, novel means of studying the functional role of microbiota in the initiation and progression of human colorectal cancer. Through the development of HiPR-FISH, this project will address timely questions, such as the functional roles of cancer-promoting microbes; the role of biofilm formation in early carcinogenesis; and the presence of a persistent microbiome in tumors.

NIH Award Number: 1R33CA235302-01A1

Cornell Researchers

Funding Received

$1.1 Million spanning 3 years