Major Grant to Study Aggressive Intestinal Bacteria

10 March 2020

What happens when aggressive intestinal bacteria invade the intestinal mucosa? And are there substances in our normal intestinal flora that can prevent it? This is what Mikael Sellin’s research team will be studying over the next five years with the aid of a grant from the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research’s Future Research Leaders programme.

Mikael Sellin has been announced as a Future
Research Leader by the Swedish Foundation for
Strategic Research (SFF).

The Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research (SFF) announced 20 grants to Future Research Leaders aimed at promoting the development of young scholars who have the aptitude to become future leaders of academic and/or industrial research in Sweden. Each grantee receives SEK 12 million over a five-year period and is required to participate in a leadership training programme.

‘One of the researchers is Mikael Sellin of Uppsala University’s Department of Medical Biochemistry and Microbiology, who is leading the project Analysis of the intestinal flora's anti-infective potential in organoids.

He and his research team have developed specific techniques for studying aggressive intestinal bacteria such as salmonella and shigella. How can these invade the intestinal mucosa and what differentiates them from normal intestinal flora?

“We are searching for substances and mechanisms in our normal intestinal flora that can combat aggressive bacterial infections. Our normal intestinal flora contains substances that can shut down the aggressive behaviour of the infecting intestinal bacteria or improve the protection of the intestinal mucosa,” explains Mikael Sellin.

The intestine in miniature
Based on earlier discoveries, the research team has developed a system for growing miniature intestinal systems outside the body. This technique will now be used to grow intestinal tissue and add aggressive bacteria, either in the presence or absence of normal flora. The process can then be studied under the microscope or even videoed.

“Our aim is to study which substances and mechanisms can switch off aggressive intestinal bacteria. Our hope is that the project can provide ideas for new substances that can both stop the bacteria’s aggressive behaviour and strengthen our natural immune system in the intestine.”