Otolaryngology Researcher Awarded Federal Grant to Study the Microbiome of the Larynx

The microbiome has been well-studied in many organ systems, such as the gut and lungs, yet we know very little about the microbiome of the larynx. Dr. Ran An seeks to change this with a new three-year, $563,000 Exploratory/Developmental Research Grant Award (R21) from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

Dr. An, a PhD-trained scientist in the lab of Dr. Susan Thibeault in the Division of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, is particularly interested in how these naturally-occurring microbes may contribute to wound healing.

“Voice disorders can result from inflammation in the larynx that is caused by things like surgery, radiation treatment, or trauma to the vocal folds. We want to better understand the role that the microbiome may play in the recovery process following an injury to the larynx,” explained An.

To examine this, An and colleagues will compare how laryngeal wounds heal in microbe-free mice versus mice that have been colonized with laryngeal microbiota. They will also examine how microbial composition in the larynx changes over the course of the wound healing process. An hypothesizes that the laryngeal microbiome not only contributes to healing, but that there are specific microbes that can predict how well the wound will heal. The results of this study can ultimately be used to develop innovative prevention and treatment strategies for laryngeal injuries.