Ana Maldonado-Contreras, PhD, has received the American Gastroenterological Association Research Scholar Award for her work related to diet, the gut microbiome and inflammatory bowel disease.
Dr. Maldonado-Contreras, instructor in microbiology & physiological systems, will use the three-year, $270,000 grant to determine whether dietary influences on the gut microbiome coincide with alterations in gut inflammation in IBD patients, and, if so, whether changes are the result of difference in the expression of long non-coding RNAs.
“We know that altering the diet works and that adopting a diet that is aimed to increase beneficial bacteria in the gut ameliorates intestine health and reduces symptoms and the need for medication of IBD patients. Yet, the relationship between diet and bacterial changes in the gut hasn’t been rigorously and scientifically researched in this context,” Maldonado-Contreras said.
Using animal models, Maldonado-Contreras has found that some genes are differentially activated depending on the bacterial stimuli, thus controlling inflammation through the intestine. She is investigating whether similar instances occur in patients with IBD.