Dr. Bor’s research focuses on a recently discovered group of microorganisms (TM7 bacteria) that share fascinating features such as reduced genome size, smaller than usual cell size, and the ability to grow on the surface of other bacteria. Dr. Bor has demonstrated that TM7 bacteria are parasitic to their host-bacteria, but still have the ability to develop a long-term, stable relationship with their host-bacteria. This bacteria-to-bacteria, host-parasitic interaction is fascinating and has not been previously described in the human microbiota. Dr. Bor is interested in understanding the underlying molecular mechanisms that drive the specific interaction between TM7 and their host-bacteria, as well as how this intimate symbiotic relationship impacts the oral microbiome and their ecology as a whole.
Many human microbiome-associated diseases are caused by dysbiotic communities of indigenous organisms working in concert rather than at a single organism level. Whether the opportunistic pathogen is a keystone pathogen (bacterial driver), accessory pathogen (supporter of pathogens) or pathobiont (bacterial passenger), it is crucial to understand their behavior in order to prevent their pathogenic roles. TM7 has been associated with multiple mucosal diseases that are caused by a dysbiotic polymicrobial community such as vaginosis, inflammatory bowel disease, and periodontitis. Multiple studies showed that an increase in abundance (more than 20% of the whole oral bacterial population in some cases) of TM7 members was detected in patients with aggressive periodontitis. These results strongly suggest that TM7 species of bacteria play a major role in disease state. However, the research field for studying these small bacteria is in its infancy, and we still have absolutely no understanding of TM7’s role in human diseases. As one of the first laboratories to study TM7 bacteria, the goal of Dr. Bor’s team is to elucidate the connection between TM7 bacteria and mucosal diseases.