Newsportal - Ruhr-Universität Bochum
German-Ukrainian collaboration in the medical field
Under normal circumstances, the brain largely controls our eating patterns and energy metabolism. However, by disrupting this system, inflammation can contribute to the development of metabolic diseases. Researchers led by Professor Nina Babel at the Marien Hospital Herne, University Hospital of Ruhr-Universität Bochum, have shown that a dietary supplement with the short-chain fatty acid propionate can have a positive effect on such inflammatory reactions. Together with Professor Ludmila Gayova and Professor Larisa Natrus from Bogomolets National Medical University (NMU) in Kiev, Ukraine, she is planning to study the underlying mechanisms in the context of diabetes mellitus in more detail. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research provides her with travel funding of 35,000 euros for two years to help her set up the necessary structures. The project started on 1 July 2021.
Propionate inhibits inflammation
Looking to the long term, the researchers hope to find new biomarkers for the early detection of metabolic disorders as well as new targets for the treatment of the resulting diseases – such as obesity and type II diabetes mellitus. “In metabolic diseases, systemic or local inflammation in the brain or intestinal tissue plays an important role,” explains Nina Babel. Together with Dr. Ulrik Stervbo, Professor Timm Westhoff and other researchers from the Marien Hospital Herne, she showed that in patients with end-stage renal disease, dietary supplementation with propionate has a positive effect on their existing progressive low-threshold systemic inflammation.
Promising study results from Kiev
In the next step, the researchers intend to find out whether these findings can be transferred to metabolic diseases. “In Kiev, promising experiments with propionate administration in rats suffering from diabetes mellitus have already taken place,” points out Nina Babel. The relevant study data have not yet been published.
So far, however, the underlying mechanisms have not yet been understood. “We want to find out whether it is possible to predict who will respond to propionate and who will not, and which molecular changes are triggered by propionate. This might allow us to work with a specific molecule to develop a targeted therapy,” explains Nina Babel.
Ukrainian and German researchers complement each other
She has found ideal cooperation partners for this project at the NMU in Kiev: Ludmila Gayova, Head of the Department of Biological and Bioorganic Chemistry, and Larisa Natrus, Head of the Department of Modern Technologies of Medical Diagnostics and Treatment, have a lot of experience in researching metabolic diseases in mice and rats. They will conduct any relevant animal studies. The molecular genetic cell and protein analyses planned as part of these studies will be carried out by Nina Babel and her research group. In case of first positive results, the German team plans to carry out clinical studies.
High-quality data from Ukraine
Nina Babel was born in Ukraine and grew up there. She moved to Germany for her studies. “After twenty five years, I visited Ukraine again and was quite impressed by the number of good scientists there. Unfortunately, despite their hard work, they are underrepresented on the international stage,” stresses Nina Babel, adding: “They have very high-quality data, but the way they process them gets little attention in the Western world. When I brought back experimental data from a trip to Ukraine and discussed it with my own team, they were fascinated by the kind of experiments conducted in Ukraine.” However, Ukrainian researchers sometimes lack the facilities to analyse the experimental results down to the smallest detail, especially when cutting-edge technology is required for the purpose. “This is another reason why cooperations like the one we are planning are ideal,” concludes Nina Babel.
Fabian Meyer et al.: Propionate supplementation promotes the expansion of peripheral regulatory T‑Cells in patients with end‑stage renal disease, in: Journal of Nephrology, 2020, DOI: 10.1007/s40620-019-00694-z
5 November 2021