2017 Conference Speaker – Rodney Dietert

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Rodney Dietert PhD

Rodney Dietert is Professor of Immunotoxicology at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA and author of the 2016 book ‘The Human Superorganism: How the Microbiome Is Revolutionizing the Pursuit of a Healthy Life’.

Rodney is in his 40th year Cornell University faculty. He received his Ph.D. in immunogenetics from the University of Texas at Austin in 1977. Rodney has more than 300 publications, including 200 papers and book chapters, with most concerning environmental risk factors, developmental immunotoxicity, and programming of later-life, non-communicable diseases. Recently, he has focused on the importance of the microbiome in health and safety. Among his prior authored and edited books are: Strategies for Protecting Your Child’s Immune System (World Scientific Publishing, 2010), Immunotoxicity Testing (Springer, 2010), Immunotoxicity, Immune Dysfunction, and Chronic Disease (Springer, 2012) and Science Sifting: Tools for Innovation in Science and Technology (World Scientific, 2013). Rodney previously directed Cornell’s Graduate Program in Immunology, the Program on Breast Cancer and Environmental Risk Factors and the Institute for Comparative and Environmental Toxicology and served as a Senior Fellow in the Cornell Center for the Environment. Outside Cornell, he was President of the Immunotoxicology Specialty Section (SOT) and Editor of Springer’s toxicology book series, Molecular and Integrative Toxicology. Recently, Rodney appeared in the 2014 award-winning documentary film on the microbiome titled, Microbirth. In 2015, he received the James G Wilson Award from The Teratology Society for the Best Paper of Year (2014) with a peer-reviewed publication on the microbiome. Rodney takes his interests seriously and has published journal articles on both the history of Scottish silver and the use of contemplative practices in biomedical education.

Lecture 1: Introduction to the Human Superorganism

Abstract: Humans were recently recognized as being majority microbial based both on numbers of cells and numbers of genes. We are estimated to be approximately 57% microbial in cells and more than 99% genetically microbial. Taken a as whole, the bacteria, archaea, protozoa, viruses, and fungi that live on and in our body are called our microbiome. Most of the baby’s microbiome is seeded at or near birth making early life a critical time for human self-completion. Because of their location on and in our body and their capacity for metabolism, cell signaling and epigenetic regulation of the body’s physiological systems, our microbial co-partners can exert a major effect on human development, physiological function (e.g., neurological, immune, endocrine, respiratory, gastrointestinal) and risk of both noncommunicable and infectious diseases. The lecture will cover the following 10 topics:

What it means to be a superorganism and not merely a human mammal.
How our microbiome is established in early life
How the microbiome is measured and evaluated
How it connects us to our external environment
How it affects an infant’s overall development
How the microbiome influences our neurodevelopment and behavior
How the microbiome affects immune development and the risk of both noncommunicable and infectious diseases
How diet, lifestyle, certain drugs, and environmental factors can damage the human microbiome
How strategies for rebiosis (repairing the microbiome) can aid wellness
Why precision medicine needs to focus on the microbiome if it is to be successful

Overall Learning Objective:

Attendees will begin to view themselves differently in seeing themselves more like a walking coral reef composed of thousands of species. They will be able to apply this new thinking about human superorganism biology to practical health issues surrounding birth and infancy such as maternal, neonatal, and infant nutrition, lifestyle choices, chemical, drug and microbial safety, disease prevention and wellness and precision-personalized medicine.

Lecture 2: Breastfeeding and the infant environment: opportunities to support a healthier microbiome and wellness

Abstract: Breastfeeding is a critical part of the baby’s seeding with co-partner mutualistic microbes as well asco-maturation of the newborn’s microbiome and immune system. Breast milk provides the baby with several significant factors needed for physiological maturation, immune homeostasis, and reduced risk of later-life disease. Among these are immune components, milk-borne microbiota, and prebiotic sugars that are indigestible by human mammalian cells but are needed by the baby’s microbiome. The period of breastfeeding and early infant solid food introduction is one during which critical windows of postnatal development exist for many of our physiological systems (e.g., immune, gut, brain, hepatic, endocrine, respiratory, urogenital, and neurological). A variety of environmental and psycho-social factors also affect the status of the infant microbiome and later-life physiological function. This lecture will cover the following 8 topics.

How breast milk functions to both seed and feed the baby’s microbiome
How breast milk supports the immune system and the baby’s resistance to disease
How solid foods affect the baby’s microbiome and physiological development
How critical windows of postnatal development affect later life health
How the infant environment works through the microbiome to influence health and wellness
How and in what ways parents can manage their child’s environment to support a more robust microbiome
Why consumer products need added scrutiny to ensure childhood safety
How prebiotics, probiotics, and fermented foods may play a role in childhood health protection

Overall Learning Objective:

Attendees will learn how breastfeeding and the baby’s introduction to breast milk, solid foods, and factors in the external environment all go together to affect microbiome-driven physiological development and later-life health risks.

Selected References:

Biagi E, Franceschi C, Rampelli S, Severgnini M, Ostan R, Turroni S, Consolandi C, Quercia S, Scurti M, Monti D, Capri M, Brigidi P, Candela M. Gut Microbiota and Extreme Longevity. Curr Biol. 2016 Jun 6;26(11):1480-5.

Dietert R. The Human Superorganism: How the Microbiome is Revolutionizing the Pursuit of a Healthy Life. Dutton Penguin Random House. New York, NY. ISBN: 978-1101983904

Dietert RR. Natural childbirth and breastfeeding as preventive measures of immune-microbiome dysbiosis and misregulated inflammation. J Anc Dis Prev Rem 1:103. doi:10.4172/jadpr.1000103
https://ecommons.cornell.edu/handle/1813/33432

Donovan SM1, Comstock SS. Human Milk Oligosaccharides Influence Neonatal Mucosal and Systemic Immunity. Ann Nutr Metab. 2016;69 Suppl 2:42-51.

Gibbons SM. The Built Environment Is a Microbial Wasteland. mSystems. 2016 Apr 19;1(2). pii: e00033-16.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5069742/

Gillings MR, Paulsen IT, Tetu SG. Ecology and Evolution of the Human Microbiota: Fire, Farming and Antibiotics. Genes (Basel). 2015 Sep 8;6(3):841-57.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4584332/

Murphy K,Curley D, O’Callaghan TF, O’Shea CA, Dempsey EM, O’Toole PW, Ross RP, Ryan CA, Stanton C. The Composition of Human Milk and Infant Faecal Microbiota Over the First Three Months of Life: A Pilot Study. Sci Rep. 2017 Jan 17;7:40597. doi: 10.1038/srep40597.

James K, Motherway M, Bottacini F, van Sinderen D. Bifidobacterium breve UCC2003 metabolises the human milk oligosaccharides lacto-N-tetraose and lacto-N-neo-tetraose through overlapping, yet distinct pathways. Sci Rep. 2016 Dec 8;6:38560. doi: 10.1038/srep38560.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5144078/

Laursen MF, Andersen LB, Michaelsen KF, Mølgaard C, Trolle E1, Bahl MI, Licht TR. Infant Gut Microbiota Development Is Driven by Transition to Family Foods Independent of Maternal Obesity. mSphere. 2016 Feb 10;1(1). pii: e00069-15.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4863607/

Song SJ, Lauber C, Costello EK, Lozupone CA, Humphrey G, Berg-Lyons D, Caporaso JG, Knights D, Clemente JC, Nakielny S, Gordon JI, Fierer N, Knight R. Cohabiting family members share microbiota with one another and with their dogs. Elife. 2013 Apr 16;2:e00458
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3628085/

Sonnenburg ED, Smits SA, Tikhonov M, Higginbottom SK, Wingreen NS, Sonnenburg JL Diet-induced extinctions in the gut microbiota compound over generations. Nature. 2016 Jan 14;529(7585):212-5.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4850918/

von Mutius E. The microbial environment and its influence on asthma prevention in early life. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2016 Mar;137(3):680-9.