Berlin: A young Indian scientist based in Germany has been awarded a grant of 1.5 million euros to investigate the role of gut microbiota in autoimmune diseases of the central nervous system such as Multiple Sclerosis.
The Starting Grants of the European Research Council (ERC) seek to give talented scientists at an early stage in their careers the freedom to pursue their most creative ideas.
Gurumoorthy Krishnamoorthy, group leader at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology, was one of this year's successful Starting Grant applicants.
With the 1.5 million euros he will receive over the period of five years, Krishnamoorthy will establish an independent research group at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried.
The group's aim is to investigate the role of gut microbiota in autoimmune diseases of the central nervous system such as Multiple Sclerosis.
Multiple Sclerosis, or MS, is the most common inflammatory disease of the central nervous system.
In the disorder, cells from the body's immune system penetrate into the central nervous system. Here, the cells wreak havoc by triggering off inflammatory reactions and attacking nerve cells.
Despite decades of research on MS, the causes and course of the disease are still largely unclear.
Three years ago, Krishnamoorthy and his team discovered that bacteria from the natural intestinal flora, which every human being needs for digestion, could act as a trigger for the development of Multiple Sclerosis.
The researchers showed that genetically modified mice develop an inflammation in the brain similar to the human disease if they have normal bacterial intestinal flora.
Mice without microorganisms in their intestines and held in a sterile environment remained healthy.
With ERC Starting Grant, Krishnamoorthy seeks to unravel the role gut microbiota play in the development of autoimmune responses.
The aim is to identify the harmful gut bacteria and the molecular pathways involved which are relevant to central nervous system autoimmunity.
Based on the results, he hopes to identify therapeutic strategies targeting gut microbiota in order to limit the development of inflammatory processes during autoimmune diseases.