Québec City, July 5, 2016 – Université Laval rector Denis Brière and the federal minister of science, the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, announced today the creation of a Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) on the Microbiome-Endocannabinoidome Axis in Metabolic Health. This is the first-ever research chair in the world dedicated to the study of gut microbiota, impairments to it, its influence on obesity-related inflammation, and its connection to the onset of Type 2 diabetes and cardiometabolic disease.
Headed by Italian professor Vincenzo Di Marzo, a worldwide authority in endocannabinoid pharmacology, this unique chair will push back the limits of obesity research by combining studies on the microbiome—now recognized as the second human brain—with conventional approaches to shed light on the mechanisms controlling metabolic responses to nutrition. The chair will help develop new therapeutic approaches and innovative nutritional and medical strategies to maintain health and prevent metabolic complications associated with obesity, a multifactorial disease seen as one of the most pressing social issues of the 21st century.
Vincenzo Di Marzo’s research will focus on the gut flora system, which he will study as a whole to determine how it works. Gut flora are an exogenous system of micro-organisms working in symbiosis with the human organism. Housed in the gastrointestinal tract, these micro-organisms play a key role in various bodily functions, including metabolism and immunity. Gut microbiota composition depends on nutrition. Studying how diets change its structure and functions is therefore vital to understanding its impact on cardiometabolic health.
“We already know a lot about the gut microbiome. We know its composition—primarily bacteria, viruses and yeasts—and that some are beneficial to the human body, and some less so,” says the new chair holder Vincenzo Di Marzo. “We also know that if we alter the relative composition of a person’s gut microbiome, there will be consequences for their physiology. Indeed, there are strong links between this and inflammatory bowel disease and other intestinal conditions, obesity, metabolic and cardiovascular disorders, and even cancer. This is what I hope to find out. I want to examine the microbiome at a molecular level. I want to see how it communicates with the human body. We know that the gut microbiome comprises ‘good’ bacteria and ‘bad’ bacteria—and that these are usually well balanced. The gut plays a key role in various bodily functions, including metabolism and the immune system. But if the equilibrium of the microbiome is disturbed, a phenomenon called ‘dysbiosis’ occurs that has consequences for the body.”