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Niranjan Nagarajan

Friday 23rd Septemeber 2016 - Skin microbiome dependent predisposition to Eczema

The human skin is our primary protection against environmental and pathogenic insults. Despite our best efforts to eradicate them, our epidermis harbours a complex microbial ecosystem. Different parts of the body offer widely different environments, the equivalent of variation from rain-forests to deserts for bacterial communities. While most skin residents are harmless or beneficial to the host, some can lead to skin diseases. In particular, eczema of the skin is a common condition (15-30% of children and 2-10% of adults) where the interaction between skin microbes and the host immune system is believed to play a role. Eczema or Atopic Dermatitis (AD) has a significant quality of life impact on affected individuals and increasing healthcare and other associated costs worldwide. Using modern genomic techniques and the first metagenome-wide association study on skin we have identified key perturbations in the resident skin microflora that could act as triggers for AD flares. This analysis suggests that individuals with eczema harbour a distinct community that is primed for pathogen growth and inflammation. We propose a new form of the hygiene hypothesis for explaining the increasing incidence of eczema, revealing in the process novel therapeutic targets for this disease.

Dr Niranjan Nagarajan is Associate Director and Group Leader of the Genome Institute of Singapore, and Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the National University of Singapore. His research focuses on algorithmic and statistical questions in the study of infectious and genetic diseases.

Dr Nagarajan recieved a B.A. in Computer Science and Mathematics from Ohio Wesleyan University in 2000, and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Cornell University in 2006 (Advisor: Prof Uri Keich). He did his post doctoral work in the Centre for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology at the University of Maryland, working on problems in genome assembly and metagenomics.