Michael Morowitz, MD, FACS

  • Associate Professor of Surgery and Human Genetics

Education & Training

  • Medical School – Duke University – MD
  • Residency – Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania – General Surgery
  • Fellowship – University of Alabama – Pediatric Surgery

Research Grants

NIH Grants:  2 R01 AI092531-06, 1 R01 HD097578-01, U10 HD049983-11, 5 U19 AI067773-14

Research Summary

The Morowitz laboratory studies changes in the gut microbiota during critical illness. We are particularly interested in strategies to reverse antibiotic- and diet-induced alterations in the microbiome. We are systematically evaluating the benefits of plant-based nutrition in modifying the microbiome and improving outcomes, in part via alterations in bile acid and amino acid metabolism in the gut lumen.  Our work includes -omics-based analyses of clinical samples collected from patients, as well as animal models of critical illness.  We are currently studying the impact of a plant-based diet in murine models of inflammatory bowel disease, pneumonia, and traumatic brain injury. Lab members are well versed in molecular genetic approaches, in vitro biochemical assays, culture-independent interrogation of the gut microbiota, and computational analyses of large DNA sequencing datasets. Dr. Morowitz is particularly invested in supporting the development of surgeon-scientists and the advancement of researchers studying host-microbial relationships.

Representative Publications

  1. Li H, Morowitz M, Thomas N, Wong PK. Rapid Single-Cell Microbiological Analysis: Toward Precision Management of Infections and Dysbiosis. SLAS Technol. 2019 Aug 26:2472630319858922. doi: 10.1177/2472630319858922. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 31448654.
  2. Steen EH, Moles CM, Goldstein AM, Morowitz MJ, Gosain A, Mollen KP, Hackam D, Keswani SG. The Pediatric Surgeon-Scientist: Succeeding in Today's Academic Environment. J Surg Res. 2019 Jul 19;244:502-508. doi: 10.1016/j.jss.2019.06.008. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 31330294.  
  3. Gopalakrishna KP, Macadangdang BR, Rogers MB, Tometich JT, Firek BA, Baker R, Ji J, Burr AHP, Ma C, Good M, Morowitz MJ, Hand TW. Maternal IgA protects against the development of necrotizing enterocolitis in preterm infants. Nat Med. 2019 Jul;25(7):1110-1115. doi: 10.1038/s41591-019-0480-9. Epub 2019 Jun 17. PubMed PMID: 31209335.  
  4. Olm MR, West PT, Brooks B, Firek BA, Baker R, Morowitz MJ, Banfield JF. Genome-resolved metagenomics of eukaryotic populations during early colonization of premature infants and in hospital rooms. Microbiome. 2019 Feb 15;7(1):26. doi: 10.1186/s40168-019-0638-1. PubMed PMID: 30770768; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6377789.  
  5. Yeh A, Conners EM, Ramos-Jimenez RG, Firek B, Novak EA, Rogers MB, Cheek R, Ozolek J, Mollen KP, Morowitz MJ. Plant-based Enteral Nutrition Modifies the Gut Microbiota and Improves Outcomes in Murine Models of Colitis. Cell Mol Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2019;7(4):872-874.e6. doi: 10.1016/j.jcmgh.2019.01.007. Epub 2019 Feb 1. PubMed PMID: 30716421; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6522637.  
  6. McClanahan D, Yeh A, Firek B, Zettle S, Rogers M, Cheek R, Nguyen MVL, Gayer CP, Wendell SG, Mullett SJ, Morowitz MJ. Pilot Study of the Effect of Plant-Based Enteral Nutrition on the Gut Microbiota in Chronically Ill Tube-Fed Children. JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr. 2019 Sep;43(7):899-911. doi: 10.1002/jpen.1504. Epub 2019 Jan 15. PubMed PMID: 30644566.  
  7. Orlova E, Yeh A, Shi M, Firek B, Ranganathan S; 23andMe Research Team, Whitcomb DC, Finegold DN, Ferrell RE, Barmada MM, Marazita ML, Hinds DA, Shaffer JR, Morowitz MJ. Genetic association and differential expression of PITX2 with acute appendicitis. Hum Genet. 2018 Nov 3. doi: 10.1007/s00439-018-1956-2. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 30392061.  
  8. Di Caro V, Cummings JL, Alcamo AM, Piganelli JD, Clark RSB, Morowitz MJ, Aneja RK. Dietary Cellulose Supplementation Modulates the Immune Response in a Murine Endotoxemia Model. Shock. 2018 May 8. doi: 10.1097/SHK.0000000000001180. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 30080745; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6222003.  
  9. Brooks B, Olm MR, Firek BA, Baker R, Geller-McGrath D, Reimer SR, Soenjoyo KR, Yip JS, Dahan D, Thomas BC, Morowitz MJ, Banfield JF. The developing premature infant gut microbiome is a major factor shaping the microbiome of neonatal intensive care unit rooms. Microbiome. 2018 Jun 20;6(1):112. doi: 10.1186/s40168-018-0493-5. PubMed PMID: 29925423; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6011520. PMCID: PMC5893878.