FDN assistant professor Claire de La Serre was awarded one of 35 Junior Faculty Research Grants by the UGA Research Foundation.
De La Serre’s work focuses on the role of diet, gut microflora and inflammation in modulating obesity. There is evidence showing that gut bacterial populations can induce or improve pathologies associated with obesity.
“We have more bacterial cells than human cells in our body,”
de La Serre said. “When you eat certain types of food, that changes the composition of the bacteria, and that can influence how your body responds to diet and how prone you are to obesity.”
De La Serre’s latest research involves looking at the specific pathways that lead to insulin resistance, or pre-diabetes.
In particular, de La Serre will study the implication of the body’s endocannabinoid system, a collection of lipids and receptors in the brain that play a role in appetite and mood, among other processes, in insulin resistance.
Diabetes, a major obesity-related disease, affects more than 25 million people in the U.S. De La Serre’s work aims to help identify a possible intervention in the pre-diabetic state by analyzing the relationship between gut microflora and the endocannabinoid system.
“You can change the bacteria in people’s guts fairly easily without any surgical procedure,” de La Serre said. “Now, to support this type of intervention you need the research to show that yes, if I change the bacteria, then I can help with this.”
“This pathway has not been explored before and her work could lead to significant advances in the field,” FDN department head Lynn Bailey said of the endocannabinoid study. “Identifying the key steps in a signaling pathway offers several points for potential intervention.”
De La Serre also is teaming with FDN professor Joan Fischer on a USDA-funded study involving blueberries and their effect on microflora and gut permeability.
The UGA Student Dietetic Association is an organization run by students majoring in dietetics.
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