Li and Ishaq labs receive Allen Foundation funding to research broccoli bioactives!

The Allen Foundation awarded Dr. Yanyan Li, Assistant Professor of Food Science and Human Nutrition, and myself funding for a pilot project in people on broccoli sprouts, the gut microbiome, anti inflammatory compounds, and health! Dr. Li and I, as well as a team of other researchers, have been collaborating over the last three years to understand how certain gut microbes create an anti-inflammatory compound using a compound in broccoli sprouts, and how we can use this action to calm colitis. Over the next 18 months, we will be recruiting a small group of people to participate in a diet trial. This will form the first part of the PhD work for Johanna Holman, who recently defended her master’s of science at UMaine.

Project Summary:

There is increasing evidence that diet and the gut microbiota have significant impact on human health and thus impact susceptibility to disease such as inflammatory bowel disease. Indeed, a Westernized diet has been associated with higher risk for developing inflammatory bowel disease, primarily as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, while a diet rich in fruits and vegetables tends to reduce risk. Our preliminary data suggests that a specific whole-food preparation of broccoli sprouts protects against the development of colitis in a chemically-induced mouse model as well as in a transgenic mouse model of Crohn’s disease. Furthermore, the gut microbiome contributes to the generation of the active anti-inflammatory component, sulforaphane, from broccoli sprouts, and the microbiome, in turn, is altered by exposure to broccoli sprouts or its metabolites. Thus, our long-term goal is to understand the interactions between anti-inflammatory bioactives of broccoli sprouts and the gut microbiome. The current proposal aims to increase our understanding of the nutrigenomics of the human microbiome and a broccoli sprout diet in healthy subjects. Our goal is to determine the feasibility of incorporating a specific broccoli sprout preparation into whole-food diets to increase levels of anti-inflammatory bioactives from broccoli sprouts in healthy humans. These directly address the foundation’s priority of “bringing the promise of nutrigenomics or nutritional genomics to realization”. Results from this study will help determine the feasibility and potential efficacy of a whole food approach in promoting intestinal homeostasis and mitigating risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease.

Diagram of the chemical conversion of glucoraphanin to sulforaphane. In panel A, the process is shown using the plant enzyme myrosinase, and in panel B, the process is shown using bacterial myrosinase-like enzymes. In the middle of the diagram, there is a cartoon mouse eating broccoli. Panel A points to the broccoli, where that action occurs, and panel B points to the gut, where microbial conversion occurs,
Figure from Holman et . in review, artwork by Johanna Holman. Glucoraphanin hydrolysis. A. GLR hydrolysis in the presence of myrosinase upon damage to the broccoli plant. Epithiospecifier protein preferentially converts GLR to SFN-nitrile. B. GLR hydrolysis has been demonstrated by gut bacteria in the colon of mammals.  Low pH environments favor conversion to SFN-nitrile.

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