Program: Molecular Cell Biology
Current advisor: Jeffrey I. Gordon, MD
Undergraduate university: University of Pennsylvania
Children with undernutrition have immature development of their gut microbiota compared to children with normal nutrition status. Current therapeutic foods used to treat children with undernutrition provide high levels of calories and nutrients. However, these foods were not developed with the gut microbiota in mind and children treated with these foods often remain stunted as adults. The lab hypothesized that it may be possible to see more complete recovery in undernourished children by feeding them with food staples that promote gut microbiota maturity. Various diets, called microbiota directed complementary foods (MDCFs), were created and tested in preclinical studies in mice and pigs. Then, a clinical trial was conducted in humans and revealed that a lead MDCF resulted in improvements in human growth signaling pathways and increased fitness of favorable bacteria in the gut.
With these results in mind, my project has two main goals: 1. Identify the bioactive components of the food staples that are leading to the observed favorable changes in gut microbiota maturity and growth signaling pathways 2. Develop even better MDCFs using sustainable, affordable, and culturally acceptable food staples from countries around the world with high burdens of undernutrition
Chen RY, Mostafa I, Hibberd MC, Das S, Lynn HM, Webber DM, Mahfuz M, Barratt MJ, Ahmed T, Gordon JI. 2021 Melding microbiome and nutritional science with early child development. Nat Med, 27(9):1503-06.