Paul Jensen receives NIH grant to investigate microbial multi-stress response


Kimberly Belser

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded bioengineering professor Paul Jensen,  a research grant to understand how bacteria have evolved stress response systems that can handle complex combinations of stressors.
The research project, titled, "The microbial multi-stress responses: from intracellular networks to communities" investigates how bacteria respond to stress from antibiotics, lack of nutrients, or even fighting among themselves.
Jensen said the typical way to study a bacterium's stress response is to apply a single stress and measure what happens. In reality, bacteria experience a range of stressors simultaneously.
“Our previous work taught us that the multi-stress response is not simply the sum of the individual stress responses,” he said. “If we want to understand what happens to bacteria ‘in the wild’, we can't limit our research to single stressors in controlled environments.”
Jensen said the grant is unique, as it is open-ended.
“We are free to take any approach to the problem,” he said. “Our lab develops lots of new technologies, so we can do things today that were impossible only a year or two ago. It's exciting that our approach could be completely different by the end of the grant.”