I am interested in the evolutionary mechanisms that generate “adaptive” function in animals. I am currently using the Mexican tetra cavefish, as a model system to resolve the relationship among genome, developmental changes, morphological/physiological shifts, behavioral adaptation and ecology. Recently we expand our research field to address the etiology of a complex psychiatric disease, autism. We found systemic parallels between cavefish and autistic patients at the level of core autism behaviors, genetics, epigenetics, drug responses, gut microbiota composition.
Gut microbiota is an emerging systemic mechanism associated with autism. Thus, my ICEMHH project aims to determine the effect of the gut microbiota on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)-like behavior in the Mexican cavefish. I will also be investigating whether the butyrate levels circulating in the body are responsible for controlling the severity of the ASD-like behaviors. Lastly, I aim to identify the molecular pathways in the host that promote a proper gut environment for firmicute microorganisms, as a strategy for identifying effective drug targets.
Integrative Center for Environmental Microbiomes and Human Health