VI4 Seminar, 1/14/21, Dr. Carolyn Ibberson

            This week, I attended a seminar from the VI4 at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, which hosted Dr. Carolyn Ibberson from Georgia Institute of Technology. She is a current faculty candidate for Vanderbilt and her presentation was titled “Insights into S. aureus infection physiology through-omics approaches.” Staphylococcus aureus is a common bacterial pathogen that is found virtually on all skin in populations and it is important to study to understand how bacteria establish and persist in infections. It is also important to acknowledge that S. aureus is not the only common bacteria found on the skin. Because of this, Dr. Ibberson uses an “ecosystem” approach to study pathogenesis by using several types of -omics approaches in infection sites such as chronic wound infections, abscesses, and osteomyelitis.

            With Dr. Ibberson’s research, she has been analyzing essential genes in S. aureus through -omics approaches in hopes to develop therapeutic targets. With her research, she found that the specific infection site of S. aureus impacts the essential genome. Thirty-nine genes were found to be shared in the three infection sites, however, more genes were found to be unique to each site than what were shared. In a separate part of her research, she studies how co-infection with Pseudomonas aeruginosa changes the essential genome. She found that 6% of the genome changed, with a quarter of the genes that were previously required in each infection no longer needed. I thought this was an interesting finding and wondered why this could happen. Possibly one bacterium is compensating for the other in producing proteins and compounds to persist in the infection site. This research led her to study S. aureus with respect to infections in Cystic Fibrosis patients. By analyzing the transcriptomes, she was able to determine that the transcriptomes are different in human infections than with in vitro conditions. The -omics technologies that Dr. Ibberson used were vital to her research and understanding S. aureus infection physiology.

            While listening to the seminar, I realized how important sequencing and the -omics technologies are for current studies. Only seventeen years ago the Human Genome Project was finished with the first complete human genome which cost millions of dollars [1]. Today, sequences can be determined with less time and money, which aids researchers to utilize these technologies. Also, sequencing many organisms at once has been made possible to better understand environments like human skin, cells, and soil. Technologies such as genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics, etc. are greatly utilized for these studies and also greatly help clinical researchers [2]. Insights can be made into diagnosing diseases and also help inform doctors about the correct treatment plan, especially relevant for cancer patients. In addition, sequencing and -omics technologies have greatly aided microbiome research to create a more holistic view of the environment [3], which greatly helps researchers and their data, as shown by Dr. Ibberson’s research.


[1] Shendure J. (2017). DNA sequencing at 40: Past, present, and future. Nature Review. doi:10.1038/nature24286

[2] Karczewski K, Snyder MP. (2018). Integrative omics for health and disease. Nature Reviews, Genetics. 19: 299-310

[3] Knight R. (2018). Best practices for analyzing microbiomes. Nature Review Microbiology. 16(7). DOI: 10.1038/s41579-018-0029-9