Senior Research Fellow
Research briefs for the Knowledge Scotland website
Food Health Innovation Scotland (FHIS) Science Bytes
I gained my BSc (Hons 2:i) in Biochemistry from the University of Aberdeen before continuing to my PhD (Molecular Biology of plant viruses) at what was then the Scottish Crop Research Institute in Invergowrie, Dundee. After my PhD I returned to Aberdeen to the Rowett Institute and have been here ever since.
Investigations into the development and evolution of the gut microbiota
The human large intestine is home to the largest and most diverse group of bacteria in the human body. These bacteria play an important role in maintaining human health, fermenting plant fibres and other non-digestible carbohydrates, and releasing compounds that have direct or indirect benefits to human health.
We are interested in investigating the interactions between different bacterial groups, how populations and bacterial activities change through life, and how they respond to the availability of specific growth substrates.
Understanding the impact of specific dietary components on gut bacteria will help us to formulate health advice for the general population.
One main research area involves investigating the longitudinal development of the microbiota from birth in a group of infants. Specific techniques including DGGE, NGS and FISH are used to investigate the microbial composition while the activity of the microbiota is established using SCFA analysis and metabolite profiling.
Another key research area is investigating the health benefits that can be derived from increased consumption of oats and barley. The impact of these dietary components are assessed in vitro using bacterial mono- and co-culture, aswell as using mixed batch culture and fermentor systems. Human studies have also been done to ascertain the effects in vivo.
Finally my group is involved in investigating the incidence, evolution and transferability of specific antibiotic resistance genes between anaerobic gut bacteria. These resistance genes are also useful genetic markers to investigate gene function in key gut anaerobes.
1. Development of the microbiota from birth,
2. Effect of different cereals as dietary components on the gut microbiota.
3. Manipulation of anaerobic gut bacteria
Through the RESAS work I collaborate with JHI (Derek Stewart and Gordon McDougall) and UHI (Peter MArtin).
I also have a joint PhD student with Prof. Paul O'Toole, University College Cork, Ireland.
- Scottish Government funded Strategic Partnership grant - Exploring the potential of cereal crops to benefit health
- Scottish Government theme funding for RINH
- Commercial funding from Vogel to investigate the effect of a specific prebiotic on gut health
- Commercial funding (TSB award) to investgate the health effects of a gluten-free diet
- Further Info
- I am the vice president of ISAPP (International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics)
- I am an editor for the Microbiology journal
- Invited expert on ILSI expert panel - ‘Exploring the role of the major gut microbiota clusters on nutritional and functional benefits of nutrients and nonnutrients’