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Uncovering the Hidden Human Milk Microbiome

Project Description

Project details:

Until recently, human milk (HM) was considered to be sterile and free of microorganisms in healthy mothers. We are now beginning to understand the importance of the microbiome of HM and its role in developing the naïve immune system of new-born babies. Many of the studies exploring the HM microbiome have focused on the use of rRNA gene sequencing techniques. Although valuable information on the composition of the microbiome can be obtained, no functional information on their biochemical characteristics is gained; limiting our understanding of how the microbiome interacts with the new-born host. This project will develop a collection of HM microorganisms using novel culture methods, techniques, and media, with a focus on the use of anaerobic methods. The recovery of microorganisms will be compared to DNA sequencing data to gauge the success of different techniques. Furthermore, the biochemical properties of these microorganisms in response to various culture conditions will be tested using ambient ionisation mass spectrometry techniques to gain an understanding of how they may respond to the new-born gastrointestinal tract. The effect of various treatment and storage conditions (e.g pasteurisation and freezing) on microbial viability will be pursued; potentially informing guidelines for donor HM banks and at-home storage.

This project will be supervised by Dr Simon Cameron, Professor Sharon Huws, and Dr Julianne Megaw of Queen’s University School of Biological Sciences.

All applications MUST be submitted through

Specific skills/experience required by applicants:

A degree (awarded or expected) in microbiology would be required, or equivalent experience and expertise in standard microbiology laboratory techniques. A willingness to be involved in participant recruitment and sample collection would be beneficial. Experience with statistical analysis, including the use of R, would be beneficial.

All applicants must meet the academic entry requirements:

Funding Notes

Only UK and EU students are eligible to apply. Before applying, it is strongly recommended that you read the full information on eligibility criteria available from DfE: View Website.

Please note in particular that not all successful applicants may be eligible to receive a full studentship (i.e. fees and stipend) - please read in detail the Residency and Citizenship requirements in the document linked to above.

How good is research at Queen’s University Belfast in Public Health, Health Services and Primary Care?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 29.60

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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