Research News

Graham Bull prize in clinical science and Goulstonian Lectureship 2017

Wednesday, 23 November 2016 13:07

The Graham Bull prize was established in 1988 in honour of Sir Graham Bull, who was the first director of the Clinical Research Centre at Northwick Park. A trust for the Graham Bull prize was set up to provide money for young research workers under the age of 45 who feel that they have made a major contribution to clinical science.

The prize as designed by the trust is specifically for an application and not for nomination of individuals. The work can cover a wide range of expertise, such as:

  • molecular and cellular biology
  • imaging technology
  • psychiatry
  • health sciences

The award is open to RCP members and fellows who must apply for their own work to be considered. The sum of £1,000 is offered on a competitive basis each year.

The winner of this prize will be invited to deliver the Goulstonian Lecture, an annual lecture endowed in 1635 by Mrs Ellen Goulston in memory of her husband, Dr Theodore Goulston FRCP.

Researchers must be under the age of 45 on the application closing date (as per the terms of the original bequest), and must be a member or fellow of RCP London.

Further information, including details of how to apply, may be found on the RCP website:

Deadline for applications: Friday 31st March 2017

A specific strain of Lactobacillus acidophilus may relieve symptoms of lactose intolerance

Thursday, 27 October 2016 09:44

Lactose intolerance is a form of lactose maldigestion where individuals experience symptoms such as diarrhoea, abdominal cramping, flatulence, vomiting, and bowel sounds following lactose consumption. An estimated 30% of the population from the United States and Mediterranean countries may suffer from this condition, although lactose intolerance prevalence is lower in northern European countries and higher in African and Asian countries. Lactic acid bacteria (LAB) such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus may help digesting lactose contained in fermented dairy products and this could be beneficial to individuals suffering from lactose intolerance. Lactobacillus acidophilus is a species of LAB involved in sugar fermentation; no human clinical trials exist evaluating its efficacy in alleviating symptoms related to lactose intolerance.

A recent study, led by Mr. Michael Shahani from Nebraska Cultures in Walnut Creek (California, USA), has found that a specific strain of Lactobacillus acidophilus may provide symptom benefits after 4 weeks of use, compared with a placebo, among individuals with lactose intolerance.

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Bacteria from celiac patients influence gluten’s digestion and its ability to provoke an immune response

Thursday, 27 October 2016 09:39

Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition involving an immune reaction that is triggered by dietary gluten, found in wheat, barley and rye. Partially digested gluten peptides can trigger symptoms in genetically susceptible individuals, expressing HLA-DQ2 or DQ8 genes. While necessary for disease development, the expression of DQ2/DQ8 is not sufficient for disease development, suggesting a critical role for environmental factors. Alterations in the intestinal microbial composition have been described in celiac disease, but a clear microbial signature hasn’t been defined and the pathophysiological significance of these alterations is unknown.

Gluten is highly resistant to digestion by human digestive enzymes; however, digestion of gluten by intestinal bacteria has recently been described. In a recently published paper in Gastroenterology, a group led by Dr. Elena Verdú at McMaster University explored how bacteria isolated from celiac disease patients and healthy controls differentially influence gluten digestion and the immunogenicity of gluten metabolism products.

Using germ-free mice colonized with either opportunistic pathogens, such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, or commensals, such as Lactobacillus, Caminero et al first demonstrated that different bacteria can participate in gluten metabolism in vivo, and that they have distinct proteolytic activities.

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Are clues about childhood asthma and heightened immune responses found in a baby’s gut microbiome?

Thursday, 27 October 2016 09:27

It is well known that gut microbiota in early life is linked to several immune-related diseases. It has been previously reported that during the first 100 days of life there is a window where microbe-based diagnostics and therapeutics may be useful to prevent the development of asthma in high-risk individuals.

A recent study, led by Prof. Susan Lynch from the Division of Gastroenterology at the Department of Medicine at University of California in San Francisco (California, USA), has found that neonatal gut microbiome dysbiosis may predict later atopy and asthma development in childhood.

By studying stool samples (n=298; aged 1-11 months) through 16S ribosomal ribonucleic acid (rRNA) sequencing from a United States birth cohort, neonates (median age 35 days) were divisible into three microbiota composition states (1: the lowest risk group; 2: the medium risk group, and 3: the highest risk group) representing three different risk groups. Neonatal gut microbiotas exhibited significantly different relative risk (RR) of predominantly multisensitized (PM) atopy development at age 2 years and of parental report of doctor-diagnosed asthma at age 4 years. PM atopy at age 2 years was defined using a statistical algorithm that clusters subjects according to their pattern of serum specific-immunoglobulin E responses to a panel of ten food and aeroallergens. The highest risk group (group 3) showed lower relative abundance of certain bacteria (including Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus, Akkermansia and Faecalibacterium), higher relative abundance of particular fungi (Candida and Rhodotorula) and a distinct faecal metabolome enriched for pro-inflammatory metabolites, when compared to either of the lower-risk groups (groups 1 and 2). Neonatal gut dysbiosis in the highest risk group was consistent with previously described early-life (3 months of age) gut microbiota taxonomic depletions that increase infants’ risk of asthma. These data suggest that neonatal gut microbiota dysbiosis is characteristic of PM atopy and asthma development in later childhood.

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