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Projects. Life and Matter Sciences

Using animal models for testing interventions targeting malnutrition and stunting in children

Lead Researcher: Fernando Martín Belmonte
Research Centre: Centro de Biología Molecular Severo Ochoa. CSIC-UAM. Madrid.


Fernando Martín BelmonteProtein malnutrition during early postnatal stages results in stunted growth and impaired development of children in low resource areas. Our previous results have identified that the plasmolipin gene (PLLP) is necessary for the differentiation of a population of Lysosome Rich Enterocytes (called LREs) present in a fragment of the small intestine (Ileus) that play a key and conserved role in protein absorption that is crucial for optimal nutrition and growth during development. This absorption of proteins is crucial for proper nutrition and postnatal growth. In order to alleviate these harmful effects of malnutrition it is essential that we have a better understanding of how neonatal protein absorption is affected by environmental factors, including diet composition and microbes. We also found that alterations in the reciprocal interactions between host LREs, microbiota and the diet can have unexpected outcomes that aggravate nutritional deficits in malnourished individuals. Therefore, successful probiotic interventions for environmental enteric dysfunctions (EEDs) must evaluate all aspects of these interactions in a comprehensive way.

The goal of this project is to generate a new animal model to study the function of LREs. This model will facilitate the development and testing of probiotic treatments for EEDs cases. The animal model we are developing will be able to rapidly test the complex effects of microbial pathogenesis and probiotic treatments on host physiology in an efficient and cost-effective manner. In this project we will: a) characterize the identity and properties of LREs in absorption and nutrition; b) define how certain nutritional components that depend on the function of LREs are regulated by host-microbial interactions; c) test the effect of probiotic interventions in an experimental malnutrition model, and to determine how the bacterial strains associated with stunting in children affect gastrointestinal physiology and other LRE-dependent processes.

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