About The Lab

Welcome to the Laboratory of Ashutosh Mangalam, PhD, at the University of Iowa Department of Pathology.

The major goal of my research is to develop better treatment options to cure multiple sclerosis (MS). To achieve this goal, my research program focuses on three major interconnected themes:

  1. To understand the role of gut microbiome and metabolome in the etiopathogenesis of MS;
  2. Test therapeutic efficacy of human gut derived bacteria as drug (BRUG) in animal models of MS; and
  3. Utilize transgenic mice expressing MS susceptible and resistant HLA class II molecules (HLA transgenic mice) to understand the mechanisms of disease pathogenesis.

Our fecal microbiota profiling study showed that MS patients had depletion of certain bacteria whereas enrichment of others (PMID: 27346372). The gut microbiota help in maintaining our health by regulating various functions, including: food metabolism, energy homeostasis, maintenance of the intestinal barrier, inhibition of colonization by pathogenic organisms and shaping of both the mucosal and systemic immune responses. Alteration of the gut microbiota and resulting changes in its metabolic network perturb this homeostasis, often leading to intestinal and systemic disorders such as MS (Figure below). Our microbiome study showed that MS patients have alteration in gut bacteria involved in metabolism of phytoestrogens, fibres/carbohydrates, bile acids and tryptophans. Therefore, multiple projects in the laboratory are investigating the mechanism through which gut bacteria regulate host physiology, e.g. numbers of bacteria responsible for metabolism of phytoestrogens (specifically PrevotellaParabacteroides, and Adlercreutzia) are depleted in MS patients. As a proof of concept, we isolated Prevotella histicola from healthy individual (one of the bacteria linked with phytoestrogen metabolism) and observed that it can induce regulatory CD4 T cells as well as suppress disease in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), an animal model of MS (PMID: 28793252). Based on these two observations we are testing the hypothesis that a decrease in microbial flora associated with metabolism of plant lignan and isoflavone might be responsible for pro-inflammatory state and predisposition to disease.

Diagram, read the text for a full description

We have extended our human microbiome study to recruit new cohort of MS patients to confirm our earlier findings as well as identify and characterize the specific bacteria which might be responsible for predisposition to the disease. We are also testing whether combination therapy of commensal bacteria and currently used MS drug is a better treatment option than either of them alone.

In another project, we are utilizing transgenic mice expressing autoimmune prone HLA class-II molecules to understand their role in selection of gut flora and its effect on development of adaptive immune system.

Lab Members in the News

Peter Lehman and Dr. Mangalam

Peter Lehman successfully defends and publishes his M.S. Thesis

Friday, July 28, 2023
Peter Lehman successfully defended his M.S. thesis this past June and completed the Pathology M.S. program. Peter’s thesis is entitled Effect of Gut Microbiota Modulation During Early-life and Adulthood on Host Immunity. He performed his thesis work in the laboratory of Dr. Ashutosh Mangalam where he examined the effects of gut microbiome disruption on immune function.

Lab Research in the News

Dr. Mangalam

Dr. Ashutosh Mangalam Interviewed on the Importance of Microbiome in Health and Disease for “Health You” a Quarterly Health Publication of “The Gazette” Newspaper

Tuesday, August 15, 2023
Dr. Ashutosh Mangalam was interviewed on the significance of the microbiome in health and disease for “Health You” a quarterly health publication of the Cedar Rapids Gazette newspaper.
Dr. Mangalam

Dr. Ashutosh Mangalam receives a major gift from Ms. Margaret Heppelmann and Mr. Michael G. Wacek to study the role of natural versus synthetic progesterone in modulating immune responses

Monday, May 15, 2023
Autoimmune diseases affect millions of people in the United States. According to estimates from the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, there are over 50 million Americans living with autoimmune diseases, which translates to 1 in 5 people.
Dr. Mangalam and Dr. Ghimire

In a recent Gut Microbes article, Dr. Ashutosh Mangalam and colleagues demonstrate a healthy plant-based diet reduces inflammation by enriching for beneficial gut microbiota.

Thursday, November 3, 2022
Diet and the gut microbiome have emerged as important factors in regulating the pathobiology of multiple sclerosis (MS), an autoimmune demyelinating disease of the central nervous system.