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FoodBioSystems DTP - Dietary protein and gut barrier function: a gatekeeper of metabolic & immune health


Project Description

Research Group: FOODBIOSYSTEMS BBSRC DTP

The gut barrier functions to prevent the passage of bacteria and bacterial products into the systemic blood circulation. If the gut barrier fails, bacterial products can infiltrate bodily tissues, causing metabolic and immune dysfunction. The best example of this effect occurs in inflammatory conditions that lead to a translocation of bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) from the gut to the liver, where LPS has been implicated in promoting the accumulation of ectopic fat and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, a common condition that contributes to the development of cardiovascular and terminal liver diseases. We have new evidence to show that gut barrier function, as measured by an increase in gut permeability, is also impaired in healthy men, a phenomenon known as ‘leaky gut’. While the aetiology of this condition is likely to me multifactorial, there is emerging evidence to suggest that the fermentation products of dietary protein may impair gut barrier function in the colon, especially in the absence of fermentable carbohydrate. If this link can be substantiated, it would have major implications for the over consumption of protein in the UK population, especially with respect to proposed dietary recommendations to increase protein intake in middle-aged adults.

Our research proposal aims to determine the relationship between gut permeability, diet protein and immune and metabolic health using in vitro and human intervention studies in a collaborative project between the Universities of Surrey and Reading. The fermentation profile of dietary food proteins will be investigated in an in vitro digestion system that reflects the human colon. Dietary proteins will be further examined in vivo, in a human dietary intervention study to investigate the effects on the gut barrier, gastrointestinal inflammation, the microbiota and health. These data will provide unique evidence for a causal link between dietary protein and impaired gut barrier function, and new mechanistic insights into the role of the gut microbiota, and adverse metabolic ramifications of this effect.

Training opportunities: There will be training available in human, animal, microbiological and in vitro-based model systems at both the University of Surrey and the University of Reading.

Student profile: This project would be suitable for a student with a degree in dietetics or human nutrition, with a keen interest in learning laboratory techniques.

Funding Notes

This project is part of the FoodBioSystems BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP), it will be funded subject to a competition to identify the strongest applicants. Due to restrictions on the funding, this studentship is only open to UK students and EU students who have lived in the UK for the past three years.

The FoodBioSystems DTP is a collaboration between the University of Reading, Cranfield University, Queen’s University Belfast, Aberystwyth University, Surrey University and Brunel University London. Our vision is to develop the next generation of highly skilled UK Agri-Food bioscientists with expertise spanning the entire food value chain. We have over 60 Associate and Affiliate partners. To find out more about us and the training programme we offer all our postgraduate researchers please visit View Website.

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