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UConn Health Diaz Laboratory

About Us

The Diaz laboratory studies oral microbial ecology and its significance in common oral diseases such as chronic periodontitis, oropharyngeal candidiasis and mucositis during the course of cancer chemotherapy. It is well known that oral microbial communities are composed of hundreds of bacterial species growing in close proximity to each other. The fungal component of oral microbial communities is less characterized although we know that several Candida spp. and other less studied fungi are able to colonize the human oral cavity. Most oral diseases are associated with shifts in the composition of these resident microbial communities. In the lab we conduct human clinical studies to characterize the disruption that occurs in the oral microbiota as disease develops (dysbiosis) and delineate the microbial, host and environmental factors associated with each condition. We use methods such as 16S rRNA and ITS amplicon sequencing to obtain the taxonomic composition of microbial communities and also shot gun sequencing to evaluate the oral metagenome. These clinical studies are combined with in vitro investigations to characterize the physical and metabolic interactions among members of microbial comunities that are important for community development and stability. Our in vitro community models include continuous culture systems such as flow cells and chemostats. Our long term goal is to elucidate key interaction events within the oral flora that influence the etiology of different oral pathologies and could serve as potential preventive or therapeutic targets.