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R.I.S.E: Protecting the Fragile Intestine

Dr. Satya Dandekar, Dr. Bruce German from the Foods for Health Institute, and others were awarded a prestigious Research Investments in the Sciences and Engineering (R.I.S.E.) grant from the UC Davis Office of Research. The project "Protecting the Fragile Intestine: Integrating Microbiota and Mucosal Health" examines the important role of the intestine in promoting overall health.

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Dr. Satya Dandekar is the theme leader on the grant and is Professor and Chair of the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology at UC Davis with a joint appointment in the Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, School of Medicine. The grant founded the Center of Health for Advancing Microbiome and Mucosal Protection (CHAMMP)

This project pulls together researchers from across UC Davis, including the Departments of Engineering, Chemistry, Food Science & Technology, Nutrition, Viticulture & Enology; the School of Law; the Graduate School of Management; the School of Veterinary Medicine; Departments within the School of Medicine, including Pediatrics, Comprehensive Cancer Center, Infectious Disease, Medical Microbiology & Immunology, Gastroenterology & Hepatology; and the Foods for Health Institute. 

RISE faculty and researchers from those fields include: Dr. Alexander Revzin (ENG), Dr. Andrew Hargadon (GSM), Dr. Lisa Ikemoto (Law), Dr. Thomas Prindiville (MED), Dr. Richard Pollard (MED), Dr. Jonathon Eisen (MED), Dr. Michael George (MED), Dr. Helen Raybould (VetMED), Dr. Mark Underwood (VetMED), Dr. Ralph de Vere White (CCC), Dr. Carlito Lebrilla (CHEM), Dr. Bruce German (FST), Dr. Carolyn Slupsky (NUT), Dr. Daniela Barile (FST), Dr. David Mills (V&E), Dr. Samara Freeman (FFHI) and Dr. Angela Zivkovic (FFHI).

The human gastrointestinal (GI) tract harbors >80% of the immune cells in the body and also hosts 10 times more commensal bacteria than the total number of cells in the body. The immune cells are essential for protection against pathogens yet uncontrolled immune activation can cause chronic inflammatory diseases. The interplay of the gut immune system with pathogens and commensal microbiota shapes the integrity and protection to the gut epithelial barrier and immune cells that in turn controls inflammation. Unresolved inflammation contributes to tissue injury, changes in the gut microbiota and inflammatory diseases. 

Despite the intense interest in developing therapeutic strategies to repair the gut damage and renew intestinal epithelial barriers, effective treatment regimens are lacking. In this project, researchers will apply novel approaches for repairing and protecting the fragile intestine in critical clinical populations: premature infants, HIV infected adults with incomplete immune recovery, cancer patients on chemotherapy and adults with inflammatory bowel disease.

A novel combination of milk derived oligosaccharides and uniquely human Bifidobacterium species will be used that have anti-inflammatory effects on immune cells. The Program will combine previous findings and collective expertise in human milk glycobiology and bioactive molecules, gut mucosal immunology, commensal bacteria, pediatrics/ neonatalogy, infectious diseases, cancer, clinical research, genomics and single cell analysis platforms. It will provide a dynamic and innovative platform for multidisciplinary training and mentoring of students and to generate collaborative opportunities among researchers and private sector to develop biomarkers, diagnostics and new products for protection of the fragile intestine and prevention/resolution of inflammation.