DK: Bifidobacterium longum subspecies infantis. Foto: DTU Fødevareinstituttet | UK: Bifidobacterium longum subspecies infantis. Photo: National Food Institute

Promising gut microbiota researcher receives prize

Nutrition and dietary habits Health-promoting compounds Health and diseases
A young DTU researcher has received another prize for research into the interplay between diet, gut bacteria and health with a focus on young children.

The human intestine is home to trillions of bacteria. Greater knowledge about the ways our diet and environment affect the composition of our gut bacteria (the gut microbiome) can provide greater insight into the body’s risk of developing a number of diseases and pave the way for ways to minimize this risk.

For the second time in his short career in research, Senior Researcher Martin Frederik Laursen from the DTU National Food Institute has received a prize as recognition of his research in this field.

The prize recognizes Martin Frederik Laursen’s work, which has a particular focus on the gut microbiome in infants and young children. Along with colleagues he has e.g., identified how breastfeeding and the transition to family food play a part in shaping the gut microbiome, and he has also shown a link between gut bacteria and appetite-regulating hormones as well as extreme weight gain in early life.

The honour comes from the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics, who have awarded the young researcher a Glenn Gibson Early Career Research Prize.

Martin Frederik Laursen has also identified an enzyme in bifidobacteria that live on breastmilk in the gut of infants. This enzyme enables the bacteria to produce small molecules that are believed to have a beneficial effect on the immune system. The study was conducted with research colleagues from the University of Copenhagen among others and was published in Nature Microbiology in the autumn of 2021

This finding is important for our understanding of the beneficial effects of breastfeeding and can prove important when it comes to designing pre- and probiotic products for infants in the future. Popularly speaking, probiotic products are supplements that contain beneficial gut bacteria, while prebiotic products are supplements that contain nutrients that act as food for specific beneficial gut bacteria.

Recognition from DTU

Martin Frederik Laursen received his PhD in 2018. He received DTU’s Young Researcher Award at DTU’s annual PhD reception that same year in recognition of the extraordinary effort, which he put into his thesis. Watch a short video produced for the occasion in which Martin Frederik Laursen explains how knowledge from his field of research can help to improve human health.

Since then, Martin Frederik Laursen has also worked on the development of next-generation probiotics that can be used in the future to treat inflammatory bowel diseases. As a senior researcher, he is now helping to create insight into how knowledge about an individual's intestinal microbiota can be used to tailor a diet that is beneficial to health.

Go to the National Food Institute’s website to read about research conducted by the Research Group for Gut Microbes and Health into the effects of diet, dietary components and contaminants on the microbial population of the gut and derived effects on host health.