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€1.5m grant backs new research into nutrition and gut immunity

By Nathan Gray+

14-Aug-2012

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A new €1.5m grant from the European Research Council will help to spring science investigating the links between nutritional compounds and intestinal immunity into new life.

The ‘NutrImmune’ project aims to investigate the influence of certain nutrients from foods on the intestinal immune system in the hope of uncovering new molecular mechanisms that govern interactions between foods and the immune system.

Led by Professor Andreas Diefenbach from the University of Freiburg Medical Centre, Germany, the project received the €1.5m ‘starting grant’ after Diefenbach and his research group previously published research to show that phytochemicals found in broccoli have an influence on the differentiation of specific immune cells in the gut.

Diefenbach told FoodNavigator that the group are trying to develop new ways to modify nutrients in order to use manipulate immune cells and “harness their power for the better of the intestinal barrier function.”

He explained that the modification of such intestinal immune cells by the nutrients they are studying could have implications for inflammatory bowel disease, and intestinal infections.

“What we believe is that we can manipulate these [immune] cells by boosting their function, for example with such plant derived compounds … and that may then increase epithelial barrier functions and dampen inflammation,” said the researcher.

The project, will last five years, and hopes to unravel many of the mysteries currently surrounding the molecular mechanisms that control the human gut immune system.

“We will be getting a real boost with this funding because it will enable us to do things that with normal funding is difficult to do,” said Diefenbach.

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