New funding for gut health research

Published: 9 November 2023

Researchers from the University of Glasgow are sharing in £12m of new funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

Researchers from the University of Glasgow are sharing in £12m of new funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).  
Professor Douglas Morrison of the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre (SUERC) is one of 62 researchers from across the UK who will lead new projects funded by the BBSRC’s Pioneer Awards scheme, which supports visionary bioscience research.
The new project will reunite Professor Morrison with Professor Gary Frost of Imperial College London to advance their research on the complex molecular interactions which occur in the human body when food is eaten.
In an earlier study, the researchers tagged peas with a non-radioactive isotope called carbon-13 to help map their journey through the human body.
After volunteers ate meals containing the peas, the researchers collected blood, urine and stool samples for analysis to help better understand the process by which food interacts with gut microbes and human tissues as it is digested and metabolised.
The new project will re-analyse the samples collected during the study using an advanced mass spectrometer recently installed at SUERC.
Thermo Scientific™ Orbitrap Exploris™ Isotope Solutions will allow the team to examine the samples with unprecedented sensitivity and resolution, revealing new details of how food affects the human microbiome and metabolism.
The results could help develop understanding of those complex biological processes and how they influence human health.
Professor Morrison said: “I’m delighted that BBSRC has chosen to support this project with funding from the Pioneer Awards scheme.
“Using the Orbitrap Exploris MS for isotope analysis opens up a vast new range of possibilities for our work, enabling us to simultaneously analyse many more molecules tagged with carbon-13 than ever before and providing new insight into the workings of the human body.
“We know that our gut microbiomes affect many aspects of our health. We hope that the work we’re beginning with this funding will help develop new targeted medical interventions in the future.”
BBSRC’s pilot pioneer awards scheme aimed to support original and potentially transformative research at an early stage of development. The scheme was designed to stimulate creativity within the bioscience research community by providing funding that encourages a ‘high-risk, high-reward’ research culture. The funded projects represent either a significant departure from existing lines of investigation within the research field or an entirely new line of inquiry.
Focused on BBSRC’s understanding the rules of life theme, the projects open up new research directions relevant to fundamental bioscience questions and have the potential to substantially shift current and future thinking about key topics.
Professor Guy Poppy, Interim Executive Chair at BBSRC, said: “Understanding the fundamental rules of life, such as the principles governing genetics, evolution and biological processes, is essential for advancing scientific knowledge. It is also imperative to societal progress.
“Many of the challenges faced by today's society, such as global food security, environmental sustainability and healthcare, are deeply rooted in biological processes.
“BBSRC is committed to understanding the rules of life and by investing in cutting-edge discovery research through schemes such as the Pioneer Awards pilot, we are expanding the horizons of human knowledge while helping to unlock innovative bio-based solutions to some of the world's most pressing challenges.”

First published: 9 November 2023