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Washington University receives $8 million to lead international childhood malnutrition effort
Date:5/14/2012

e the relationship among first foods, the developing community of microbes in the intestine and the developing immune system.

The new research builds on ongoing clinical studies in Africa, South Asia and South America of malnourished and healthy infants and children and their mothers. Gordon has played a key role in that research, which also is funded by the Gates Foundation.

As part of the new project, scientists will evaluate the function of gut microbial communities in malnourished and healthy infants and children living in countries where malnutrition is prevalent. They also will characterize the nutritional content and immune activity present in breast milk samples obtained from the children's mothers during periods of exclusive and supplemental breastfeeding. In parallel, the scientists will use a preclinical discovery pipeline recently developed in Gordon's laboratory to identify next-generation probiotics and nutrient supplements or combinations of the two (synbiotics) that may promote healthy growth in infants and children.

The investigators also will transplant communities of intestinal microbes, obtained from stool samples, from both malnourished and healthy children into germ-free mice raised under sterile conditions. These mice will harbor collections of human gut microbes that mimic those found in the children, and they will be fed the same diets as the children.

Then, using the mice, Gordon and his colleagues can carefully evaluate how various nutritional interventions influence gut microbiomes obtained from these children. They will be able to determine which microbes respond, how they respond and how they affect the overall function of the gut microbial communities. The researchers also will evaluate certain aspects of childhood development.

"It's extremely difficult to study individual triggers for malnutrition because there are so many variables to consider," Gordon says. "Recreating the human gut ecosy
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Contact: Caroline Arbanas
arbanasc@wustl.edu
314-286-0111
Washington University School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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