What role do chiral amino acids play in host-microbiome interactions?

Project Code: 10456233

Faculty: Liggins Institute

Department: Liggins Institute

Main Supervisor: Dr Chris Pook (cppo734)

Application open date: 04 Nov 2019

Application deadline:

Enrolment information: NZ Citizens, NZ Permanent Residents, International


The pioneering Gut Bugs Trial by researchers at the Liggins Institute looked at whether the transfer of gut bacteria – already used to treat a severe form of diarrhoea - could also treat obesity. Researchers isolated the gut bacteria from the stools of healthy lean donors, put it into capsules, and then gave them to overweight teenagers. “The basic idea behind our trial is that by introducing more kinds of gut bacteria to obese young people, it will enable their bodies to metabolise food better, potentially leading to weight loss and other health benefits, such as lowering type 2 diabetes risk," said Dr Justin O’Sullivan, a molecular biologist at the Liggins Institute.

This masters project will involve the application of liquid chromatography to quantify the chiral forms of amino acids in human plasma and stool samples from participants in the Gut Bugs Trial.


What we are looking for in a successful applicant

Successful applicants should be numerate, with a good understanding of basic human physiology and biochemistry. All necessary lab skills can be taught. However, a familiarity with chromatographic or spectrometric techniques would be advantageous, as would any experience of liquid handling and quantitative biological or chemical analysis. You should be aspiring to a career in human health research.


The objectives of this research are to accurately quantify as many of the D-enantiomers of physiological amino acids as possible in the samples and to use this information to infer the role of D-amino acids in human-microbiome interactions. Specifically, their role as regulators of human host metabolism and physiology. 

Other information

Funding is available for both domestic and international students undertaking a research masters degree at the Liggins Institute.  
Find out more here.

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