How our gut bacteria interacts with tryptophan digestion may hold clues for IBD, researcher says

By Adi Menayang

- Last updated on GMT

iStock / Piotr Marcinski
iStock / Piotr Marcinski
There is evidence that when food-microbe interactions are broken, conditions such as inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) can develop, but underlying factors are still unclear. One McMaster University researcher has won a grant to study the relationship further.

Dr. Alberto Caminero Fernandez, a post-doctoral fellow at the Farncombe Family Digestive Health Research Institute​ of McMaster University, received a grant from the Biocodex Microbiota Foundation to explore the role of microbiota on dietary tryptophan, and its implications for inflammatory bowel disease.

His main hypothesis is that tryptophan, an amino acid that is present in many foods like yogurt, cheese, red meat, eggs, fish, poultry, legumes, and more, “is metabolized by gut bacteria leading to production molecules that are beneficial for our health,” ​he told NutraIngredients-USA.

“My goal is to identify gut microbes involved in this metabolic process, as this information could help us develop treatment options for intestinal inflammatory disorders.”

Furnishing the grant is the Biocodex Microbiota Foundation​, an organization founded by France-based, global pharma company Biocodex. While the company has multiple supplement and drug products worldwide, in the US, its subsidiary Biocodex North America only sells its probiotic dietary supplement Florastor, made of Saccharomyces boulardii lyo​ CNCM I-745.

Manipulating the gut microbiome as treatment

Throughout Dr. Fernandez’s academic career, he has studied the role of intestinal microbiota as an additional environmental factor to gluten in celiac disease.

He’s building up on previous evidence of the potential benefits of modulating microbial metabolites. For example, a review published last summer​ in the Journal of Inflammation Research​ revealed ‘considerable promise’ in manipulating the gut microbiome to treat two main forms of inflammatory bowel disease.

When it comes to studies specifically on tryptophan microbial metabolites, “the group of Dr. Harry Sokol in France has recently published a paper in Nature Medicine showing that host genes affect the composition and function of the gut microbiota, altering the production of tryptophan microbial metabolites and intestinal inflammation,” ​he explained, citing a 2016 study​.

“My project has a different approach, and is focused on identifying microbes in the human gut that produce tryptophan metabolites in order to exploit them therapeutically in the future…understanding the basics of bacterial-diet interactions will help us treat patients with autoimmune and inflammatory disorders better, and may even help us prevent these disease altogether,”​ he said.

He is one of two recipients of the grant. The other is Dr. Rashim Singh from the University of Houston’s pharmacological and pharmaceutical sciences department. Her project is titled “Flavonoids and microbiome interactions via triple recycling and their roles in food-borne carcinogen-induced colorectal cancer.”

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