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Intestinal epithelium and flora. © INRA, ROCHET Violaine

Excellence in intestinal microbiota research: Harry Sokol winner of a 2016 ERC Starting Grant

Harry Sokol, a researcher specialised in the study of inflammatory bowel diseases, has been awarded the prestigious Starting Grant for 2016 by the European Research Council (ERC). The grant provides €1.5 million euros over five years, and will allow Dr Sokol to step up research on the role of intestinal microbiota in the development of certain illnesses.

Updated on 09/20/2016
Published on 09/09/2016

Dr Harry Sokol is a professor at the Université Pierre et Marie Curie (UPMC) and works at the Gastroenterology and Nutrition unit of the Hôpital Saint-Antoine in Paris. He is also a researcher at MICALIS, INRA’s joint research unit for food and gut microbiology for human health (UMR1319), and at INSERM (U1157/UMR7203).  Specialised in intestinal microbiota and how these interact with human health, his work focuses on inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s Disease. He has been awarded the 2016 ERC Starting Grant for research into the links between intestinal microbiota and human health, carried out jointly with the Paris public hospital authority (AP-HP), INRA, INSERM and UPMC.

Tryptophan in the spotlight

The ERC Grant will allow Dr Sokol to expand his research team and find more answers as to how intestinal microbiota works in humans. In particular, he studies tryptophan, an essential amino acid, the metabolism of which is controlled by intestinal microbiota.  Tryptophan is needed for protein synthesis in cells. It is also a precursor for the production, among other things, of serotonin (a neurotransmitter) and melatonin (a sleep hormone) in mammals.

Harry Sokol’s research team recently observed that changes in the metabolism of tryptophan by intestinal microbiota play a role in the appearance of inflammatory bowel diseases.  Thanks to the 2016 ERC Starting Grant, the researcher and his team are expected to identify the components of intestinal microbiota involved in the modulation of the metabolism of tryptophan and assess their therapeutic potential.  Beyond the scientific scope of this work, expected results could open the door to new treatment methods for many inflammatory, metabolic and neuropsychiatric conditions in humans.  

Scientific contact(s):

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INRA News Office (33 (0)1 42 75 91 86)
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Microbiology and the Food Chain
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