A UCC-based professor will lead a multi-million euro project aiming to further understand bacteria, viruses, fungi and other microorganisms that lurk in our stomachs, and how they affect various diseases.
Professor Jens Walter, who will lead the €3.7m research programme at APC Microbiome Ireland (APC) through Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), will examine the impact of a modern lifestyle on the gut microbiome and its relationship to increased chronic diseases.
Microbiome is described as the combination of microorganisms, bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and fungi in the gut.
They play a vital role in processes like nutrient and mineral absorption, vitamins and amino acids – but can also be harmful.
Prof Walter’s project, which has leading Irish and international academics onboard, will determine whether chronic diseases can be prevented by restoring the gut microbiome that our ancestors had.
Prof Walter, who joins UCC from the University of Alberta in Canada, was recently listed as one of the world’s most influential scientists in the 2020 Highly Cited Researchers List.
“Modern lifestyle has disrupted our microbiome, which might explain the increase in chronic disease. Through this funding we will explore nutritional and therapeutic strategies to restore gut microbiome metabolism and functionality to re-align it with human biology.
“We will tackle some of the central challenges in human nutrition and medicine, offering tremendous potential to improve human health through the prevention of chronic disease,” he said.
SFI director general and chief scientific adviser to the Government, Professor Mark Ferguson, said understanding the role of the gut microbiome in chronic diseases "is of profound scientific interest and clinical significance".
Professor Anita Maguire, vice-president for research and innovation at UCC, said it was an opportunity to drive an ambitious research programme in microbiome science within APC in UCC.