Introducing Dr. Moshe Biton

Gut tissue dynamics

New scientists

October 3, 2019
Source: 
New Scientists 2019-2020
Dr. Moshe Biton

Dr. Moshe Biton

Dr. Moshe Biton studies the cell dynamics of intestinal mucosal tissue to better understand why healthy tissue malfunctions. The vast array of cell types that reside in the gut carry out diverse tasks in the intestine in order to maintain tissue health and homeostasis. When this homeostasis is disrupted, an array of pathologies can arise, among them inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), allergies, and cancer. 

Until recently, scientists have had a limited understanding of cell mechanics and gene expression. But advances in the field, such as single-cell RNA sequencing—a method that can identify patterns of gene expression—are allowing researchers to learn how different cells function and communicate, and how these cell interactions cause disease.

By using single-cell RNA sequencing and other experimental approaches to better understand epithelial cells—the cells on the surface of our bodies and organs, creating a barrier between our bodies and the outside world—Dr. Biton has made a number of breakthroughs. During his postdoctoral studies in the U.S., he successfully characterized epithelial cells in the small intestine of a mouse model, and discovered substantial diversity among them. Applying the same experimental approaches to other mucosal surfaces, he went on to discover a new cell type in the airway: the pulmonary ionocyte, which is the main source for the gene that causes cystic fibrosis. 

Mapping cellular diversity

Dr. Biton also introduced various infections, such as Salmonella, to the gut in order to investigate how epithelial cells responded to threats. He uncovered a novel form of communication between intestinal stem cells and T helper cells that regulate the changes epithelial cells undergo following infection. Finally, by using biopsies from both ulcerative colitis patients and healthy individuals, he successfully mapped the cellular diversity of the colon, provided clues to understand drug resistance, and applied this information to infer which genes may be responsible for causing IBD. 

All of these studies have made significant headway in charting cell-to-cell interactions and epithelial innate immune properties, putting scientists on the path to better understanding mucosal tissue dynamics. Dr. Biton plans to continue exploring gut dynamics by studying cell-to-cell interactions and the innate immune properties of epithelial cells. In addition, he plans to advance our understanding of IBD risk gene function and to solve the mysteries of mucosal immunity and tissue homeostasis by learning how these genes interact within the tissue.

Born in Tel Aviv, Dr. Moshe Biton earned his BSc (2002) in molecular biology and his MSc (2005) in biotechnology at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan. He completed his PhD, summa cum laude (2012), in immunology and cancer research at Hebrew University where he received multiple awards for his outstanding PhD thesis which focused on the role of microRNA in the gut and its relevance to cancers of the intestines. Dr. Biton completed his postdoctoral fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. He is married and has three children.