Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences
Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences

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OSU-CHS News > 2014

May 8, 2014

OSU-CHS awarded national grant to study effect of estrogen

Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences recently received a $200,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the interaction between estrogen and the trillions of microorganisms that live in the digestive tract.

The National Institute of General Medical Science selected the project from OSU-CHS biomedical sciences researchers Tom Curtis, Ph.D., Gerwald Köhler, Ph.D., and Kathleen Curtis, Ph.D., for a two-year Academic Research Enhancement Award.

“Our research will examine what affect fluctuations in the levels of estrogen have on intestinal microbiota,” said Kathleen Curtis. “Changes in the numbers and types of gut microbes can significantly alter how the human body functions and may play a role in weight gain, high blood pressure and gastrointestinal disorders.”

In previous studies, researchers have found that estrogen has a protective role in weight regulation and in preventing hypertension. The OSU-CHS scientists have theorized that the gut microbiota will be sensitive to variations in the levels of the hormone.

“The project will fill significant gaps in our understanding of human physiology and the role of these microorganisms in regulating our health,” said Tom Curtis. “Given the aging of the U.S. population, this research also has important implications for the elderly since some gastrointestinal disorders are more frequent or more severe in senior citizens.”

The OSU-CHS research could also help in the development of effective antibiotic dosages used in the treatment of other diseases to prevent the disruption of the gut microbiota that can trigger gastrointestinal disorders.

“Understanding how ovarian hormones influence the intestinal microbiota may help doctors develop new disease prevention strategies or antibiotic treatments targeted to an individual’s specific hormone status,” said Gerwald Köhler.

The National Institutes of Health established the Academic Research Enhancement Award to provide training opportunities for the undergraduate, graduate and medical students who will be the next generation of scientific researchers.

 

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