izv. prof. dr. sc. Antonio Starčević

Exploring Gut Microbiome Equilibrium – MicroEquilibrium

Project code: IP-2016-06-3509
Institution: University of Zagreb, Faculty of Food Technology and Biotechnology
Project duration: 02 May 2017 – 01 May 2021
Project website

The gut microbiome represents an incredibly complex network of microbes interacting with each other, which plays an important role in digestion and immune response processes. Its influence on the secretion of endocrine glands and on the central nervous system is also relevant. Numerous scientific papers have led us to realize that under normal circumstances the microbiome has a balanced composition, the so-called “enterotype”. The disturbance of this balance can be associated both with the cause and effect of various diseases. One of the most important direct influences on this balance is certainly nutrition. The relationship between the microbiome and obesity has recently been demonstrated. We can influence gut microbiome by using antibiotics, prebiotics and faecal transplants.

Within the MicroEquilibrium project, we try to establish and maintain a balance of microorganisms, similar to the one that exists in the large intestine. We try to achieve this by standardizing the nutrient base modelled on the macro- and micro-nutrient composition present in the large intestine, and by using donor faeces that have a dual role as inoculum and as control of the success of in vitro cultivation.

In such an established model, we examine the impact of the combination of probiotics, prebiotics and patented food supplements on the change in the equilibrium with the aim of moving toward an enterotype characteristic of the phenotype of a medically desirable BMI. Therefore, in this project we try to explore the possibility of a targeted impact on the balance of the intestinal microbiome with the aim of directing it towards the desired outcome, i.e. to a healthy body mass index.

To raise awareness of the importance of retaining healthy microbiota, we made a short animated video explaining the role of healthy microbiota in maintaining our general health. The video is available at: https://vimeo.com/226713864.

Antonio Starčević was born in Rijeka in 1979. He graduated in 2004 from the University of Zagreb Faculty of Food Technology and Biotechnology. He obtained his doctoral degree in 2009 from the University of Kaiserslautern, Germany. Between 2006 and now, he published over 30 scientific papers cited in Scopus, 35 conference abstracts, one PCT patent application and several popular science articles. He co-authored three book chapters and is an active promotor of science through animated movies and media presence. He managed three national scientific projects, two of them funded by the Croatian Science Foundation.