Food BioSystems DTP Dietary protein and gut barrier function: a gatekeeper of metabolic & immune health

The gut barrier functions to prevent the passage of bacteria and bacterial products into the systemic blood circulation. If the gut barrier fails, bacterial products can infiltrate bodily tissues, causing metabolic and immune dysfunction. While the aetiology of this condition is likely to me multifactorial, there is emerging evidence to suggest that the fermentation products of dietary protein may impair gut barrier function in the colon, especially in the absence of fermentable carbohydrate.  Our research proposal aims to determine the relationship between gut permeability, diet protein and immune and metabolic health using in vitro and human intervention studies in a collaborative project between the Universities of Surrey and Reading. These data will provide unique evidence for a causal link between dietary protein and impaired gut barrier function, and new mechanistic insights into the role of the gut microbiota, with the potential to inform dietary recommendations for protein intake in healthy adults.

Start date
1 October 2020
Duration
4 years
Application deadline
Funding information

This project is part of the FoodBioSystems BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP), it will be funded subject to a competition to identify the strongest applicants. Due to restrictions on the funding, this studentship is only open to UK students and EU students who have lived in the UK for the past three years.

The FoodBioSystems DTP is a collaboration between the University of Reading, Cranfield University, Queen’s University Belfast, Aberystwyth University, Surrey University and Brunel University London. Our vision is to develop the next generation of highly skilled UK Agri-Food bioscientists with expertise spanning the entire food value chain. We have over 60 Associate and Affiliate partners. To find out more about us and the training programme we offer all our postgraduate researchers please visit https://research.reading.ac.uk/foodbiosystems/

About

The gut barrier functions to prevent the passage of bacteria and bacterial products into the systemic blood circulation. If the gut barrier fails, bacterial products can infiltrate bodily tissues, causing metabolic and immune dysfunction. The best example of this effect occurs in inflammatory conditions that lead to a translocation of bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) from the gut to the liver, where LPS has been implicated in promoting the accumulation of ectopic fat and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, a common condition that contributes to the development of cardiovascular and terminal liver diseases. We have new evidence to show that gut barrier function, as measured by an increase in gut permeability, is also impaired in healthy men, a phenomenon known as ‘leaky gut’. While the aetiology of this condition is likely to be multifactorial, there is emerging evidence to suggest that the fermentation products of dietary protein may impair gut barrier function in the colon, especially in the absence of fermentable carbohydrate.  If this link can be substantiated, it would have major implications for the over consumption of protein in the UK population, especially with respect to proposed dietary recommendations to increase protein intake in middle-aged adults.

Our research proposal aims to determine the relationship between gut permeability, diet protein and immune and metabolic health using in vitro and human intervention studies in a collaborative project between the Universities of Surrey and Reading. The fermentation profile of dietary food proteins will be investigated in an in vitro digestion system that reflects the human colon. Dietary proteins will be further examined in vivo, in a human dietary intervention study to investigate the effects on the gut barrier, gastrointestinal inflammation, the microbiota and health. These data will provide unique evidence for a causal link between dietary protein and impaired gut barrier function, and new mechanistic insights into the role of the gut microbiota, and adverse metabolic ramifications of this effect.

Training: The student at Surrey will gain cross-disciplinary skills, experience and training in conducting a human intervention study and all that this entails; ethics, trial governance, HTA, participant recruitment, managing diets and study visits, laboratory and data analyses, and the presentation of results. The student will also gain experience and training in the management of animal models at Reading (although this project will not involve direct animal work), to gain valuable mechanistic insight into the impact of the same dietary protein on the mucosal epithelium.

Related links
Apply for a FoodBioSystems PhD

Eligibility criteria

This project is suitable for a candidate with a good degree/foundation in biosciences but with a keen interest in human nutrition.  The student will be based at the University of Surrey Manor Park Campus but will spend some time at the University of Reading.  The short distance between Guildford and Reading will facilitate the student working at both sites.

This project is part of the FoodBioSystems BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP); it will be funded subject to a competition to identify the strongest applicants.  The student will receive a full research-council studentship.

Due to restrictions on funding, this studentship is only open to UK students and EU students who have lived in the UK for the past three years.

Applicants should have fluent written and spoken English.

How to apply

If you are interested in applying for the Surrey-based FoodBioSystems DTP Studentship, you will need to submit two applications to be considered for funding under the FoodBioSystems BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) between the University of Surrey and the University of Reading.

Please follow the process below to help you prepare and submit your application.

Apply for a place on the PhD course

Two separate applications will need to be submitted:

Please make sure you indicate on your application to the University of Surrey that you are applying for the Surrey-based FoodBioSystems DTP Studentship scheme. You are also advised to ensure that you include your degree transcripts and references in the application – not providing these documents can slow the process down.

University of Reading Application:

Complete the Reading FoodBioSystems DTP PhD Application Form and email the application form to foodbiosystems@reading.ac.uk. More information can be found on the Reading website.

University of Surrey Application:

Students will also need to apply through the Surrey Biosciences and Medicine PhD course pages. Applicants do not need to prepare a separate research proposal, however, should submit their Reading application form in its place. Please make it clear on your application that you are applying for funding through the FoodBioSystem DTP.

Deadline: Your studentship application both at Surrey and Reading, must be submitted by 5:00pm GMT 6 March 2020.


Application deadline

Contact details

Denise Robertson
32 PG 00
Telephone: +44 (0)1483 686407
E-mail: M.Robertson@surrey.ac.uk
  • Nutritional Science
  • The University of Surrey, Guildford
  • The University of Reading

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