Prof Awarded Funding to Investigate Gut Bacteria

September 08, 2010 - News Release

A University of Guelph professor will use new funding from the National Institutes of Health in the United States to study bacterial species in the human gut.

Prof. Emma Allen-Vercoe, Molecular and Cellular Biology, will receive $179,000 over two years as part of the Human Microbiome Project. Project scientists are sequencing the genomes of more than 3,000 bacterial species associated with the human body to form a reference catalogue of our microbial genes.

Her funding is part of $42 million awarded to expand eight current projects designed to link changes in the human microbiome to health and disease. The money will support investigators like Allen-Vercoe who are developing innovative technologies to improve the identification and characterization of microbial communities in the human microbiome.

"These funds will allow us to continue in our efforts to isolate novel bacterial species from the human gut that have so far eluded cultivation, and will enhance the greater efforts of the Human Microbiome Project,” she said. “This reference catalogue will be an invaluable resource in the ongoing efforts to understand the role of our associated microbes in maintaining our health."

Allen-Vercoe has assembled a chemostat, also known as the “robogut,” in her lab to mimic the environment of the large intestine and enable researchers to learn more about the hundreds of bacterial species that aid in normal digestion and absorption of nutrients.

Besides growing and isolating novel gut bacteria, including species previously thought to resist culturing, she studies the effects of the stress hormone norepinephrine on the gut to help doctors treat inflammatory bowel disease.

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