Experimental animal models (through genetic, pharmacologic or nutritional manipulation) and a panel of biomarkers and techniques have been developed in order to assess the molecular mechanism underlying the “metabolic bridge” built by the gut microbiota between the colon and key organs involved in the control of energy metabolism (brain, liver and adipose tissues, muscle).
Furthermore, specific in vitro models, such as “Precision-Cut Liver Slices (PCLS)”, have been adapted to study the contribution of tissue-fixed macrophages in the metabolic response to nutrients and drugs. In addition, a panel of cancer cell lines obtained from a variety of human and mouse tissues (i.e. liver, breast, haematological malignancies, brain…), allows us to perform in vitro studies characterizing the impact of both inflammatory and oxidative stresses on cancer cell metabolism.
Finally, the integrative physiology of the different metabolic systems (including microbiota) is studied by in vivo experiments in live animals, and by (meta)genomic and metabolomics approaches in biological fluids and tissues, performed in collaboration with key specialists in the field. Nutritional intervention studies are also performed in humans in collaboration with colleagues of St Luc hospital or from abroad.
One of our recent breakthroughs has been the identification of the role of the endocannabinoïd system and its interaction with the gut microbiota in the development of adipose tissue and metabolic inflammation associated with obesity, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
To this aim, specific animal models of tissue specific genetic deletions of genes involved in the host-bacteria interaction or in the synthesis of endocannabinoids are currently developed and studied. In addition, both in vivo and in vitro models are proposed to analyse the modulation of metabolic, oxidative, and inflammatory stresses by nutrients, ingredients and/or pharmacological compounds.