Samantha Jensen Defends her PhD Thesis

Samantha Jensen and Ashu Mangalam

Samantha (Sam) Jensen (PhD in Immunology) successfully defended her thesis entitled “A phytoestrogen diet alters autoimmune disease through modulation of gut microbiome and host immune response” on April 13, 2021. Sam performed her thesis work in the laboratory of Dr. Ashutosh Mangalam where she focused on the role of the gut microbiome in pathobiology of multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease of central nervous system. Despite gut microbiome being linked with MS, the mechanism through which they influence the disease is unknown. Utilizing an animal model of MS, Sam tested the hypothesis that certain bacteria lacking in MS patients are responsible for the metabolism of phytoestrogen and influence the disease through modulation of the host immune response. She showed that the gut microbiomes of mice on a phytoestrogen vs phytoestrogen-free diet is distinct with the gut microbiome of healthy individuals and those with MS resemble the gut microbiome of mice on a phytoestrogen and phytoestrogen-free diet, respectively. She also described that that a phytoestrogen diet ameliorates EAE and the disease protection was dependent on the presence of phytoestrogen-metabolizing bacteria. These results have important implications for our understanding of the role of gut bacteria in the disease and for the development of precise and effective gut-microbiome based therapies. In additional to Dr. Mangalam, Drs. Kevin Legge, Nitin Karandikar, Jon Houtman and Vladimir Badovinac served on Sam’s thesis committee. Dr. Jensen has accepted a postdoctoral position in the lab of Dr. Gregory Sonnenberg at Weil Cornell Medicine, New York City, NY.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021