Dr Nathalie Juge has received just under £490,000 to work out at the molecular level how the beneficial bacteria in our guts break down insoluble dietary carbohydrate and host glycans – carbohydrates associated with proteins in the mucus layer that lines the gut.
This is part of a larger project to be led by Professor Harry Flint of the Rowett Institute of Nutrition & Health, and funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). This is part of an ongoing collaboration between Prof Flint’s research group at the IFR’s Gut Health and Food Safety research.
We live in a symbiotic relationship with trillions of bacteria that are important to our health, not least through their ability to digest parts of our diets that we ourselves cannot. This releases energy and nutrients to support the bacteria, which also benefits us, as we get about 10% of our energy through this mechanism.
Much of the non-digestible carbohydrate that enters the large intestine is in the form of insoluble material such as starch particles, plant cell wall fragments and secreted mucus. The ability to breakdown this material lies with just a few of the hundreds of bacterial species that make up the gut microbiome. The other bacteria rely on these ‘keystone’ species to release energy, as do we.
This new project will focus on these species, and use genomic based techniques to better understand exactly how they work, and interact both with our own bodies and the other microbes. This will give us a better understanding of the overall role the gut microbiome has in maintaining our health, and perhaps even insights into how it can be manipulated to combat gut diseases.
Read more about this study on the Gut health and Food Safety blog