Guardians of the Gut at the Royal Society

31 July 2018

Who are the scaled-down superheroes battling baddies in our gut, and keeping us in tip-top health? This is what the Hall Lab at the Quadram Institute introduced members of the public to at the Guardians of the Gut at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition 2018.

Our bodies are home to a diverse population of microbes, known collectively as our microbiota. These microbes play an important role in keeping us healthy from birth to old age. Scientists are now beginning to unravel exactly how these microscopic marvels work together and with us, and how this affects our health.

Visitors to The Guardians of the Gut exhibit where able to explore the amazing variety of bacteria that colonise our gut, and the roles they play in our growth, development and wellbeing. Special guests included Prof. Brian Cox, who got to be the first visitor the Hall lab stand. Prof. Cox got a guided tour by Dr. Lindsay Hall through their gigantic, interactive, light up gut. The Royal Society Summer Science exhibition is an annual event aimed at celebrating the cutting edge of UK science. The event was hands-on and was free to enter. This year exhibits ranged from astrology looking at a billion stars in 3D to investigating nature’s innovations.

The Guardians of the Gut has been developed by the Hall Lab at the Quadram Institute  who are studying how our birth and conditions in early life can change our gut microbiota and how this can impact our health.

Their bacterial hero, Bifidobacterium, is one of the beneficial microbes that first colonise our gut after birth, helping to establish a healthy microbiota. This is crucial as a healthy, balanced and diverse microbiota helps us to digest our food, build a strong immune system and fight off infection.

When these microbial communities are disturbed, for example through antibiotic use or dietary changes, it may predispose us to allergies and chronic diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease. With a better understanding of how this happens, the team are developing ways to improve and protect the bacterial ecosystem inside us, to help us stay healthy and to treat disease.

If you didn’t get to visit the exhibition take a look at this video for guided tour through the interactive gut exhibit.