Lyle McKinnon of the University of Manitoba in Canada and Nicola Mulder of the University of Cape Town in South Africa will study the cause of bacterial vaginosis, which is linked to reproductive health complications and increased risk of HIV, to help identify new treatments. Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is characterized by harmful vaginal populations of anaerobic bacteria, often recurs, and is more common in Black and Latina women, suggesting that there could be a genetic component involved. Indeed, their previous genome-wide association study in South African women identified two human genetic variants associated with BV. These genes are involved in the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition whereby epithelial cells lose their adhesion properties to become more like mesenchymal cells. To test whether this process is key to BV, and can thus be used to develop new treatments, they will expand their genome-wide association study and use in vitro cell models to analyze the role of the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition in promoting the growth of harmful types of bacteria.
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