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Biocodex Microbiota Foundation distinguishes i3S study

A team of i3S researchers won the 2nd edition of the National Scholarship for Research Projects, awarded by the Biocodex Microbiota Foundation. The group will receive financial support of 25 thousand euros to develop the PRIMING project, which aims to understand the impact of maternal obesity on the activation and stimulation of the child’s immune system induced by their intestinal microbiota during the first year of life.

Through an in-depth study of the role of the dysbiotic (unbalanced) intestinal microbiota transmitted by the obese mother in activating and stimulating the child's immune system, the team of researchers aims to better understand the role of the microbiome in the induction of metabolic diseases. According to researcher and team leader Benedita Sampaio Maia “the results of the research can also pave the way for the development of early diagnosis methods and innovative and personalized therapeutic strategies, such as the manipulation of the intestinal microbiota from the very beginning days of life”, and therefore more be effective.

According to the i3S researcher and professor at the Faculty of Dental Medicine of U.Porto (FMDUP), “early in life, the acquisition, maturation and establishment of the microbiome is shaped by interactions between the host and the microorganisms, in which the mother appears to play a fundamental role as one of the most important sources of microorganisms for the child”.

Current scientific evidence shows that maternal weight is the factor that most influences the development of obesity in childhood and throughout life. In addition, Benedita Sampaio Maia adds, “the transmission of the microbiota with the potential to promote obesity (obesogenic) between mother and child has been suggested as a possible route of intergenerational transmission of obesity”.

As the beginning of life represents a critical window for immune stimulation “the acquisition of an unbalanced (dysbiotic) intestinal microbiota can compromise the development of a healthy immune system. Thus, the microbial transmission process may compromise the child’s health throughout their life and for future generations” explains the researcher.

To carry out this research, the authors will evaluate prospective cohorts of children with healthy or obese mothers. The microbiome of faecal samples from children taken one, six and 12 months after delivery will be characterized and used to stimulate monocyte-derived dendritic cells from healthy blood donors in vitro.

The research project will be carried out by a multidisciplinary team with experience in areas such as Microbiology, Gynecology / Obstetrics, Biology, Biochemistry and Dental Medicine. In addition to the i3S, the Faculty of Medicine (FMUP) and the Faculty of Dental Medicine (FMDUP) of the U.Porto, the University Hospital of São João and the Faculty of Dental Medicine of the Vrije Universiteit and Universiteit van Amsterdam (ACTA) are also involved.

About the Biocodex Microbiota Foundation

There’s a growing interest in the microbiota due to its potential in a wide variety of diseases. The mission of the Biocodex Microbiota Foundation (BMF) is to take advantage of this growing interest and promote research on the microbiota and its interaction with various pathologies, by granting subsidies to projects that study the implications of the microbiota in human health.

It is in this context that the National Scholarship for Research Projects was created, aimed at the best research work in the area of Microbiota carried out by clinicians and researchers working in Portuguese scientific and technological institutions. Projects are selected annually by a committee of independent national scientists. The theme chosen for the candidate projects for the 2020/2021 edition was “Gastrointestinal Microbiota and the Immune System”.