Scientific Research Project Title

Diet-derived microbial metabolites to modulate gut motility in infants

Research Institution

Københavns Universitet

Faculty of SCIENCE, Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports, University of Copenhagen

Research field

Microbiology and Nutrition

Research leader

Henrik Munch Roager

Assistant professor

Project title

Diet-derived microbial metabolites to modulate gut motility in infants

What is your project about?

Infantile colic, functional constipation and diarrhoea are stressful conditions in early life associated with transient dysregulation of intestinal motility, which may depend on the interplay between nutrition and the gut microbiota. The purpose of the project is to conduct an infant cohort study following 125 infants’ progression from milk to solid foods, concurrent with their progression in gut microbiota diversity, with the aim of identifying diet-dependent gut microbial metabolites, which affect intestinal motility. If successful, this knowledge may lay the foundation for innovative strategies to prevent and alleviate stomach ache in infants.

How did you become interested in your particular field of research?

I have been interested in understanding diet-microbiome interactions since 2010. I find it incredible fascinating how fundamental our digestion is for our well-being and physiology, and I am curious about understanding the role of the gut microbes in this regard. My interest to study this in the context of early life has furthermore been stimulated by the fact that I have three small children myself, which mean that I have also encountered infantile colic, functional constipation and diarrhoea in recent years.

What are the scientific challenges and perspectives in your project?

The biggest scientific challenge in the project and in the research field as such, is to identify mechanisms by which gut microbes affect physiology. However, the hope is that by following infant’s development in dietary patterns, bowel habits, gut microbiota composition and activity during the first year of their life, we will be able to identify mechanisms by which gut microbes via small molecules modulate gut motility.

What is your estimate of the impact, which your project may have to society in the long term?

By combining microbiology, chemistry and nutrition, we will get a better understanding of how gut microbes digest our food and which of the resulting small molecules that can impact our health. I am convinced that this interdisciplinary approach can advance the field and elucidate basic principles, which will enable us to develop novel foods, probiotics and medicine that target the gut and thereby improve the health of infants as well as adults.

Which impact do you expect the Sapere Aude programme will have on your career as a researcher?

I see it as a recognition of my previous work, which is very encouraging. The programme gives me a unique opportunity to develop myself as a research leader, establish my independent research group, collaborate with leading and inspiring, international researchers, and to contribute to the education of young talented researchers.

Background and personal life

I am married to Marie. Together we have three wonderful children at the age of 1, 3 and 5 years, which keep us busy in our daily life in Skovlunde. Besides being together with these lovely people, I do enjoy running, playing football, reading a good book, going for walks in the nature, and being together with family and friends.

City of your current residence

Ballerup

High school

Fredericia Gymnasium