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ANNOUNCEMENT REF.: SmartAge ESR project 8



The selective process is open for the coverage of 1 vacancy for a PhD student at the BIOMEDICAL RESEARCH INSTITUTE OF GIRONA DR. JOSEP TRUETA (IDIBGI) in the Department of Endocrinology (head of project: Prof. Dr. José Manuel Fernández-Real). IDIBGI offers a PhD position for an Early-Stage Researcher (ESR) for the project: Impact of the gut microbiome on cognitive function in middle-aged subjects. Effects of weight loss. The position is part of the EU-funded Innovative Training Network SmartAge (“Gut-brain-axis: Targets for improvement of cognition in the elderly”)

Objective of the project:

To analyse the impact of age on gut-microbiome, brain microstructure and cognition, we will evaluate 200 subjects at both gender aged >65-80 years from the general population. Longitudinal data and biological sample collection have been completed in April 2018 – as a subgroup - within the Horizon 2020 SHARE project - Different domains of cognition will be explored: attention, memory and executive function (Stroop test, California verbal learning test, Trail Making test A and B) in association with metabolic variables and MRI scans including diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). Gut barrier function and inflammatory brain markers (ZO-1, LBP, progranulin) will be analysed on plasma samples by ELISA. Blood samples will be collected to measure various markers of microbial translocation/gut barrier function (bacterial endotoxins, CD14, LBP, ZO-1 and I-FABP), inflammation (progranulin, CRP, Tnfá, IL-6, IL-1á, IL-1â) and to process for metabolomics (e.g. SCFA). All these variables were evaluated at baseline and one year thereafter. Exploiting data from a previous large-scale trial is a great advantage and will support us in examining the hypotheses presented here. The effects of weight loss will be additional evaluated with the same parameters before and 1 year after bariatric surgery in 40 subjects aged >65 years, in an obese control group where dietetic counselling is provided and in non-obese subjects. Weight loss is expected to impact on cognitive improvement, the gut-microbiome, barrier function and inflammaging even at older age.

The PhD student will join a research group with extensive experience in the study of the pathophysiology of obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus and their complications. The main traditional lines of research are focused on innate immune system, inflammatory pathways, and metabolic diseases. Furthermore, the group has done significant work evaluating the biology of human adipose tissue and the role of the microbiome on the cognitive profiles of individuals with obesity and type 2 diabetes. Currently, the group is elucidating the complex interplay among the gut microbiome, the metabolome (including microbial-host co-metabolites), brain microstructure, and cognitive performance (memory, inhibitory control, etc.), and its modulation by obesity.

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