Getting to the guts of the matter thanks to prestigious scholarship

Published:07 September 2015

Dr Amy Reynolds

A prestigious scholarship will enable CQUniversity's Dr Amy Reynolds to research gut microbiota as a pathway between sleep deprivation and obesity.

Dr Reynolds, a new post-doctoral researcher based at CQUniversity's Appleton Institute in Adelaide, has recently been awarded the Trevor Prescott Freemason Memorial Scholarship.

"The burden of overweight and obesity in the developed world is undeniable and research consistently identifies a relationship between insufficient sleep and obesity," Dr Reynolds says.

"Yet, the pathways by which this relationship manifests remain largely unclear.

"The aim of my project is to understand the mechanism by which insufficient sleep affects obesity.

"There is evidence in rodent studies of a relationship between sleep deprivation and changes to the gut microbiota.

"This is further supported by changes in gut microbiota in two human subjects after transmeridian travel (with associated circadian disruption).

"At this time, however, no published literature exists regarding changes in gut microbiota in humans when sleep is manipulated in a controlled laboratory environment."

Dr Reynolds says that Trevor Prescott Freemason Memorial Scholarship funding will enable collection of novel pilot data on the effect of sleep deprivation on the human gut microbiota in a controlled laboratory environment.

"Understanding the role of the gut microbiota in the human sleep-obesity relationship is timely, and provides the essential ground work for a revolutionary approach to addressing the sleep-obesity relationship: Correction and maintenance of healthy gut colonies to ameliorate the effects of insufficient sleep.

"This funding will also allow me to attend a valuable Early Career Researcher seminar to assist with skills to develop a strong grant application to further extend this research next year, and contribute to an opportunity to meet potential international collaborators and present the findings of this pilot data at a highly regarded sleep conference in Europe 2016."

Appleton Institute Director Professor Drew Dawson says Dr Reynolds' research is a very exciting and cutting-edge area of sleep research involving collaboration with a CQUni Rockhampton laboratory group led by Dr Dana Stanley.

"It will help us provide the pilot data that will form the basis of a NHMRC (National Health and Medical Research Council) application in the near future,"  Professor Dawson says.