MRI-UQ discovery could reverse gut damage caused by high fat diets

MRI-UQ discovery could reverse gut damage caused by high fat diets

Researchers from Mater Research  Institute-UQ (MRI-UQ) have found that significant gut damage caused by a chronically high fat diet can be reversed with a protein naturally produced by white blood cells.

Diets high in saturated fat are a risk factor for the development of inflammatory bowel disease. The MRI-UQ study found that prolonged high saturated fat diets can cause the cells in the gut to become stressed. This stress weakens the mucus barrier and causes the gut to become ‘leaky’, which leads to inflammation.

Lead Researcher Dr Sumaira Hasnain and her team have found that damage caused by high fat diets can be reversed with IL-22 therapy, a naturally occurring protein released by white blood cells.

“Our experiments suggest high fat diets are likely to impair intestinal barrier function, particularly in early life, and this can be reversed by IL-22 therapy” says Dr Hasnain.

 “There has been an increase in the intake of diets high in saturated fats in recent years. Our findings show we can reverse the inflammatory effects of these diets.”

Our mucus barrier in the gut protects us from external pathogens, our own bacteria normally resident in the gut and from the food we eat. When this is weakened, it alters the good bacteria and disrupts that mucosal barrier integrity.

Dr Hasnain began her investigations in 2014 and is supported by a University of Queensland Postdoctoral Research Fellowship. The scientific paper has been published by Nature Scientific Reports. The research was supported by Australian National Health and Medical Research Council Project Grant and Mater Foundation.

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