Current Research Projects

Dietary Micronutrients in gut-host interaction.

B-vitamins act as cofactors in many metabolic reactions, and their functional roles are well-established. But novel functions are still being discovered, including their role in the gut microbiota-host relationship. Although the gut microbiota synthesizes some B-vitamins, only a limited amount is available for the host. Therefore, a dietary supply of B-vitamins is crucial. Our research program investigates the roles of B-vitamins in regulating the gut microbial profile and their impact on host metabolism, including gut integrity, immune and brain functions. We also study how B-vitamin deficiencies affect host and microbial metabolites using a metabolomics approach. This research program establishes crucial roles of B-vitamins in the homeostasis of gut microbial ecology. 

Funded by NSERC.

Vitamin B6 and pathophysiology of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a complex disorder with multiple contributing factors that affects a significant portion of the global population. A growing body of evidence suggests a link between dietary micronutrients and NAFLD, specifically impairments in one-carbon (1C) metabolism. Furthermore, vitamin deficiencies, including vitamin B6, have been associated with an increased risk of NAFLD and heightened susceptibility to severe liver damage. This correlation is attributed to increased oxidative stress, inflammation, hepatic lipotoxicity, altered immune function, and gut dysbiosis. Consistent with prior reports, lower levels of vitamin B6 have been observed in individuals with chronic liver diseases, including alcoholic and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. These findings underscore the critical role of specific vitamins in preventing the onset of metabolic diseases. Therefore, we aim to investigate the effects of deficiencies in B6 on the development and progression of NAFLD.

 Funded by Memorial University

Remodeling kynurenine metabolism in pediatric non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a metabolic disorder that is characterized by hepatic manifestations ranging from fat accumulation to steatohepatitis. It is a multifaceted disease involving gut dysbiosis, inflammation, and impairment of several metabolic pathways, including the tryptophan-kynurenine (Trp-Kyn) pathway. Normalizing Trp-Kyn metabolites is of major interest for its therapeutic implications in NAFLD. The Trp-Kyn pathway requires certain B vitamins, primarily vitamin B6, to undergo kynurenine metabolism, and gut microbiota play a crucial role in the homeostasis of this pathway. Given the involvement of gut dysbiosis and inflammation, as well as the impairment of Trp-Kyn pathway in NAFLD patients, our research proposal aims to identify a unique solution to remodel Trp-Kyn pathway to prevent or treat disease progression. 

Funded by Janeway Research Foundation

Biosynthesis of vitamin B12 and bioactive compounds through microbial fermentation of fish byproducts.

The seafood industry plays a crucial role in our country's economy, and in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador alone, it generated a staggering revenue of 1.4 billion dollars in 2019. However, with great output comes great responsibility, as these industries produce a significant amount of by-products or waste, ranging from 30-80%, depending on the industry type. Recent studies have demonstrated the potential of these fish-based by-products to be transformed into value-added products with nutraceutical benefits. Excitingly, our proposed research aims to take this concept one step further by utilizing fish by-products as a substrate for fermentation to produce vitamin B12. Through this innovative approach, we hope to not only reduce waste in the seafood industry but also provide a sustainable solution for producing this essential micronutrient.

Funded by Ocean Frontier Institute.