Bruce J. Paster, PhD
Senior Member of the Staff
Director, Human Microbe Identification Microarray Core
Professor in Oral Medicine, Infection, and Immunity, Harvard School of Dental Medicine
The Paster lab provides researchers with a scientific “canary in a coal” mine. With a one-of-a-kind service, the Human Oral Microbe Identification Microarray, Bruce Paster is using technology to probe DNA samples to see if they contain healthy or potentially harmful bacteria. HOMIM provides an advance look into what the future could hold, much as the canary in the coal mine could warn of danger.
HOMIM, created by Paster and his colleagues in 2008, enables academic, industry, and government researchers around the world to investigate oral microbial ecology. Using HOMIM, Paster analyzes DNA samples that researchers submit. This advanced technology permits the rapid, simultaneous detection of about 300 of the most prevalent oral bacterial species, including many that cannot be grown in the laboratory. The results allow scientists to compare the associations of particular species with health and disease, monitor the effectiveness of treatments, and to generate hypotheses for further studies. HOMIMs are presently used by nine principal investigators in ongoing studies at Forsyth and in other national and international collaborations with academic institutions (more than 80 investigators or teams), government including NIH (six investigative teams), and industry (12 companies). As of the end of 2013, there are presently 31 peer-reviewed, HOMIM-related publications, five reviews and 43 presentations at national and international meetings.
“Scientists always hope to bring basic research from the bench to application, and we’re proud to have actually done that,” said Paster. “In the future, we hope to take this work one step further and be able to look at “danger” microbial profiles and see whether they are indicative of early stage disease, for example childhood Crohn’s disease or very early stage pancreatic cancer. Early detection of most diseases will allow for better treatment.”
Currently, Paster and his team are combining the HOMIM custom-designed DNA microarray with next-generation sequencing to provide unparalleled specificity in bacterial identification.
University of Rhode Island, BS, 1975, Microbiology
University of Massachusetts, PhD, 1981, Microbiology