Associate Professor  |  Graduate Coordinator, Admissions & Awards

Elena Comelli

Department of Nutritional Sciences


Medical Sciences Building
1 King's College Circle, Toronto, Ontario Canada M5S 1A8
Research Interests
nutritional programming, gut microbiota, intestinal homeostasis, genomics, microRNA, children, diet, gut microbiome and growth, functional foods, natural health products, probiotics, prebiotics, bioinformatics
Appointment Status
Pending the availability of funding


  • Postdoctoral Fellowship, Molecular Biology, Glycobiology, The Scripps Research Institute San Diego (2003)
  • PhD, Technical Sciences, Microbiology, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich (2000)
  • Laurea (equiv. MSc), Food Science and Technology, Università degli Studi di Milano (1994)

Google ScholarLawson Centre Seminar Series

Other Academic Appointments

Adjunct Professor, Department of Kinesiology, Faculty of Applied Health Sciences, Brock University

At a Glance

  • Dr. Comelli’s group investigates the relationship between diet and the gut microbiome, including regulation of intestinal responses, such as via microRNA. The lab has a strong focus on early stages of life and nutritional programming of the gut microbiome for long-term health.
  • Elena Comelli is the former Lawson Family Chair in Microbiome Nutrition Research and leads the Lawson Family Chair in Microbiome Nutrition Research Seminar Series

About Dr. Elena Comelli

Dr. Comelli graduated at the University of Milano, Italy, and then obtained her PhD from ETH, Zurich, Switzerland with a research on probiotics for oral health. Afterwards, she did a postdoc at the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, USA, working in the field of glycomics. In 2003, Dr. Comelli returned to Switzerland and worked as a project manager at Nestlé Research Centre in Lausanne. In 2007, she joined the University of Toronto and in 2014 she was named the Lawson Family Chair in Microbiome Nutrition Research. Dr. Comelli is an Associate Editor for the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism.

Research Synopsis

Dr. Comelli's lab studies the role of the gut microbiome as a mediator of dietary effects on host health. Her group has a strong interest on nutritional programming of the gut microbiome for healthy growth, which they study in the clinical setting and pre-clinically to understand underlying mechanisms. Current studies span childhood from infancy to adolescence and use omics and data engineering approaches. At the molecular level, the Comelli lab focuses on microRNA as dietary targets and their responses to various components of the diet such as probiotics, lignans and polyphenols. They are also interested in understanding how these responses may vary in the metabolic syndrome, for example in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in collaboration with University Health Network.

Recent Awards and Distinctions (Selected)

University of Toronto, Temerty Faculty of Medicine, Excellence in Linking Undergraduate Teaching to Research in Life Sciences Award (2023)

Faculty of Medicine Graduate Teaching Award for Mid-Career Excellence in Graduate Teaching & Mentorship, University of Toronto (2018)

Lawson Family Chair in Microbiome Nutrition Research, University of Toronto (2014)

Recent Publications

  1. Asbury MR, Shama S, Sa JY, Bando N, Butcher J, Comelli EM, Copeland JK, Forte V, Kiss A, Sherman PM, Stintzi A, Taibi A, Tomlinson C, Unger S, Wang PW, O'Connor DL; OptiMoM Feeding Group. Human milk nutrient fortifiers alter the developing gastrointestinal microbiota of very-low-birth-weight infants. Cell Host Microbe. 2022 Aug 12:S1931-3128(22)00357-2. doi: 10.1016/j.chom.2022.07.011. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 35987195.
  2. Cuinat C, Stinson SE, Ward WE, Comelli EM. Maternal Intake of Probiotics to Program Offspring Health. Curr Nutr Rep. 2022 Aug 20. doi: 10.1007/s13668-022-00429-w. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 35986890.
  3. Wu D, Taibi A, Lin Z, Thompson LU, Comelli EM. Data on mammary gland microRNAs expression, their predicted gene targets and corresponding pathway analysis in female mice receiving flaxseed or its oil and secoisolariciresinol diglucoside components. Data Brief. 2022 May 29;42:108328. doi: 10.1016/j.dib.2022.108328. PMID: 35677459; PMCID: PMC9167859.
  4. Massara P, Spiegel-Feld C, Hamilton J, Maguire JL, Birken C, Bandsma R, Comelli EM. Association between gut MIcrobiota, GROWth and Diet in peripubertal children from the TARGet Kids! cohort (The MiGrowD) study: protocol for studying gut microbiota at a community-based primary healthcare setting. BMJ Open. 2022 May 9;12(5):e057989. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2021-057989. PMID: 35534076; PMCID: PMC9086606.
  5. McGlynn ND, Khan TA, Wang L, Zhang R, Chiavaroli L, Au-Yeung F, Lee JJ, Noronha JC, Comelli EM, Blanco Mejia S, Ahmed A, Malik VS, Hill JO, Leiter LA, Agarwal A, Jeppesen PB, Rahelic D, Kahleová H, Salas-Salvadó J, Kendall CWC, Sievenpiper JL. Association of Low- and No-Calorie Sweetened Beverages as a Replacement for Sugar-Sweetened Beverages With Body Weight and Cardiometabolic Risk: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA Netw Open. 2022 Mar 1;5(3):e222092. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.2092. PMID: 35285920.
  6. Gebrayel P, Nicco C, Al Khodor S, Bilinski J, Caselli E, Comelli EM, Egert M, Giaroni C, Karpinski TM, Loniewski I, Mulak A, Reygner J, Samczuk P, Serino M, Sikora M, Terranegra A, Ufnal M, Villeger R, Pichon C, Konturek P, Edeas M. Microbiota medicine: towards clinical revolution. J Transl Med. 2022 Mar 7;20(1):111. doi: 10.1186/s12967-022-03296-9. PMID: 35255932; PMCID: PMC8900094.
  7. Pettinelli P, Arendt BM, Schwenger KJP, Sivaraj S, Bhat M, Comelli EM, Lou W, Allard JP. Relationship between hepatic gene expression, intestinal microbiota and inferred functional metagenomic analysis in NAFLD. Clin Transl Gastroenterol. 2022 Feb 10. doi: 10.14309/ctg.0000000000000466. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 35166723.
  8. Lofft Z, Taibi A, Massara P, Tokar T, Paetau-Robinson I, Khoo C, Comelli EM. Cranberry Proanthocyanidin and Its Microbial Metabolite 3,4-Dihydroxyphenylacetic Acid, but Not 3-(4-Hydroxyphenyl)-Propionic Acid, Partially Reverse Pro-Inflammatory microRNA Responses in Human Intestinal Epithelial Cells. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2022 Feb 3:e2100853. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.202100853. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 35112478.
  9. Massara P, Asrar A, Bourdon C, Keown-Stoneman CDG, Maguire JL, Birken C, Bandsma R, Comelli EM. Outlier detection in longitudinal children growth measurements. Published in Association for Computing Machinery Digital Library. CASCON '21: Proceedings of the 31st Annual International Conference on Computer Science and Software Engineering November 2021. Pages 220–225.
  10. Taibi A, Ku M, Lin Z, Gargari G, Kubant A, Lepp D, Power KA, Guglielmetti S, Thompson LU, Comelli EM. Data on cecal and fecal microbiota and predicted metagenomes profiles of female mice receiving whole flaxseed or its oil and secoisolariciresinol diglucoside components. Data Brief. 2021 Sep 22;38:107409. doi: 10.1016/j.dib.2021.107409. PMID: 34632012; PMCID: PMC8488252.

In the News

Most probiotic yogurts don’t contain enough ‘good’ bacteria for additional benefits: study. CTV News. April 19, 2017.

Probiotic yogurt benefits vary, study finds. CBC News. April 18, 2017.

Current Lab Members

Celine Cuinat – PhD student

Lorena Lopez-Dominguez PhD student

Paraskevi Massara – PhD student

Arooj Asrar – MSc student

Diana Wu – MSc student

Dr. Amel Taibi – Research Associate

Teaching Appointments

Instructor, NFS485: Diet, Microbiome & Health, Department of Nutritional Sciences, Temerty Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto