Last year, DNA Genotek launched its first Gut Microbiome Grant program. The program attracted many applicants from varying fields of research and three winners were selected. It’s been a few months since we announced the winners, and we wanted to provide an update on their projects.
Dr. Brinda Rana
Dr. Brinda Rana is a Molecular Genetics and Associate Adjunct Professor at University of California, San Diego. Dr. Rana’s winning scientific proposal submission is called “Microbial Signatures of Aging: A Twin Study”. The goal of her study is to investigate the role of the gut-brain axis on cognitive and brain aging in a longitudinal twin cohort. She is investigating how different genetic and environmental factors interact with the gut microbiome to manifest in age-related diseases and risk factors for cognitive decline and dementia. This spring she will begin collecting 100 fecal samples from 50 twin pairs. The samples will be sent to our services lab for DNA extraction followed by 16S ribosomal RNA amplicon sequencing and data analysis of microbiome composition.
Dr. Lena Kirchner Brahe
Another of our grant winners, Dr. Lena Kirchner Brahe, is an assistant professor in Clinical Nutrition at the Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports, Faculty of Science at the University of Copenhagen. Her primary research area is the prevention and treatment of diseases by dietary modulation of the gut microbiota. Her winning research proposal is titled “Effect of a low FODMAP diet on gut microbiota, inflammation and gastrointestinal symptoms in patients with colitis ulcerosa.” Colitis ulcerosa is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) with recurring inflammation in the colon causing gastrointestinal pain, diarrhea and rectal bleeding. Clinical studies have suggested that the symptoms of IBD can be improved by a diet with a low content of fermentable oligo, di, monosaccharides and polyols (low-FODMAP diet). She will examine the effects of a low-FODMAP diet on GI symptoms, inflammatory markers and quality of life in patients with colitis ulcerosa, explore the effect of this diet on the gut microbiota and determine if the diet response can be predicted by a patients initial gut microbiota profile. The recruitment and sample collection phase of her study is ongoing and she is using OMNIgene•GUT sample collection kits. Once all of the samples for this study are collected they will be sequenced at our services lab.
Dr. Zongqi Xia
The third grant winner is Dr. Zongqi Xia who is an Assistant Professor of Neurology at the University of Pittsburgh, a principal investigator at the Pittsburgh Institute of Neurological Disorders, and a core faculty at the Pittsburgh Institute for Multiple Sclerosis Care and Research. Dr. Xia’s winning proposal is titled “Interrogating the gut microbiota community in the early stage of multiple sclerosis”. The aim of Dr. Xia’s research is to assess if neurologically asymptomatic individuals at risk for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) harbor intestinal bacterial community that are distinct from controls. An additional aim is to determine whether specific intestinal bacterial compositions can predict the earliest evidence of MS on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). He plans to begin recruiting for his study in the near future.
These exciting research projects will be completed later in the year and and we look forward to sharing their findings and experiences in another blog article.