New Austrian Science Fund consortium project on gut-brain axis in early life


A multi-university consortium coordinated by David Berry and including CeMESS member Isabella Wagner has been funded to support research into the development of the gut-brain axis in premature infants. The Austrian Science Fund (FWF) Research Groups project "Gut-immune-brain axis dysfunction in premature neonates: Molecular mechanisms and long-term consequences (NeoGIBA)” includes a research team from the University of Vienna, the Medical University of Vienna and the Centre for Molecular Medicine.

Extremely premature infants frequently experience early-life brain injury that can lead to life-long neurological impairments. Recent research implicates the gut microbiome as a key player in immune system and brain development and risk of acute neonatal diseases. As the neonatal gut microbiota-immune-brain axis (NeoGIBA) is important in acute and long-term neurological diseases, it represents a promising target for early-life therapeutic intervention. 

The overarching idea of this project is that a dysfunctional NeoGIBA in extremely premature infants contributes to brain damage and long-term cognitive impairment. The molecular mechanisms underlying the etiology of these neurodevelopmental issues will be addressed in project areas focused on the components of the axis: the gut microbiome, immune system, and brain.

This project aims to make a major advance in the field by investigating how the neonatal gut microbiome and its metabolites interact with the immune system and neurodevelopment. The project will provide fundamental insights into gut microbial ecology and immune- and neurodevelopment, and will contribute to novel translation-oriented strategies for early-life therapeutic interventions to improve the health of premature infants.