1. Mechanisms of interaction between human gut microbe populations, and ensuing effects on their functionality .
This line of research involves the examination of interactions between important gut microbe groups (e.g., butyrate producers, microorganisms identified as dysbiosis targets, and food-borne pathogens), and those between these groups and prebiotics, probiotics, and specific components of the diet (e.g., polyphenols). The repercussions of these interactions on the functionality of the gut microbiota is observed in both healthy people and those with dysbiosis. The goal is to use the knowledge gained to correct aberrations in different human populations, with special emphasis on obesity and its associated metabolic disorders.
This research line also examines the influence of gastrointestinal stress and technology on the characteristics of intestinal microorganisms and probiotics, as well as the influence of this stress on the interaction between but microorganisms.
Figure 3. 1) Exopolysaccharide isolated from purified and lyophilised cultures of bifidobacteria. 2) Equipment for separating proteins via their isoelectric point. 3) Two-dimensional electrophoresis of proteins from a joint culture of two types of microorganism, visualised with differential fluorescent staining.
2. Development and use of in vitro and in vivo models of host-intestinal microbiota interactions
Simple, affordable models – in vitro (faecal cultures, cell lines) and in vivo (using Drosophila and Caernohabditis) – allow the activity of complex microbiotas and isolated strains of microorganisms to be examined. These models are also used to study the responses of the host to the gut microbiota and specific probiotics. By comparing the responses of healthy microbiota with those showing dysbiosis, the functional objectives of the microbiota can be identified. Probiotic strains can then be identified for the correction of abnormalities.
Figure 4: Effect of different probiotics on the integrity of the intestinal epithelial lining.
3. Intestinal microbiota of different population groups .
This line of research aims to identify possible alterations in the diversity and dynamics of the gut microbial community in different groups of people and individuals. The current focus is obesity and its associated disorders. It also seeks to determine the immunological and physiological alterations and nutritional deficiencies associated with dysbiosis, and then propose palliative or corrective nutritional intervention strategies via the use of prebiotics, probiotics and specially designed diets.
Figure 5. Colonies of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria on MRS agar, and bifidobacteria as seen under the electron microscope.