Harnessing the power of the Gut-Lung Axis: How Dietary Short-Chain Fatty Acids Balance Inflammatory Outcomes in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is an incurable lung condition triggered by smoking, or other air pollutants, that leads to long-term lung damage and serious trouble breathing. While COPD is an illness of the lungs, maintaining a healthy gut and a balanced diet can prevent COPD and reduce COPD attacks or flare-ups. But how this "gut-lung cross-talk" works is not yet fully understood. Our gut is home to trillions of microorganisms known as the microbiome or "gut flora". The microbiome normally co-exists in equilibrium with our bodies, helping us digest the food and maintain a healthy immune system. Beneficial bacteria in the gut break down the fibre in fruits and vegetables into nutrients called short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) that enter the blood acting as natural anti-inflammatory compounds and helping fight off harmful infections. Poor eating habits and frequent use of antibiotics can get the microbiome off-balance, reducing the beneficial bacteria and the SCFA. We think this imbalance in the gut contributes to COPD worsening and flare-ups. Here we will study the gut microbiome of COPD patients and compare it to the microbiome of healthy people to find out which are the beneficial bacteria missing in the gut of COPD patients and design therapies to restore the balance. We will examine how SCFA help the immune cells fight off lung infections to prevent COPD flare-ups, and investigate if taking SCFA supplements can help reduce COPD symptoms. This project will harness the power of the gut microbiome to develop nutritional therapies for COPD management which will benefit over 500,000 COPD Irish patients and 250 million worldwide.

Award Date
15 May 2019
Award Value
Principal Investigator
Dr Natalia Munoz-Wolf
Host Institution
Trinity College Dublin
Emerging Investigator Awards