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$1.2 million grant to a chemist from Ben-Gurion University in the Negev 

The prestigious grant on behalf of a program Human Frontier Science Prof. Michael Mailer from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and his international colleagues will investigate how bacterial strains and their chemical signals affect human behavior, such as anxiety and stress

Prof. Michael Mailer. Photo credit: Danny Machlis, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
Prof. Michael Mailer. Photo credit: Danny Machlis, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

A $1.2 million grant is intended to help solve part of the puzzle that makes up the gut-brain axis. The research will delve into the question of how certain bacteria and their chemical signals affect human behavior, such as anxiety and stress. The intestines of all mammals contain trillions of bacteria. Animals in general have a two-way relationship with these bacteria and they communicate with them through chemical signals that affect the well-being of the human body and even the way the brain works. However, the molecules responsible for this dialogue and the sensors that receive these signals remain largely unknown.

Now, Prof. Michael Mailer From the Department of Chemistry at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and his international colleagues- Prof. Karina Xavier, from the Bacterial Signaling LaboratoryFundação Calouste Gulbenkian in Portugal, andProf. Brittany Needham, from the Stark Neuroscience Institute at Indiana University in the USA, will delve deeper into the analysis of the behavior of intestinal bacteria and their effect on the central nervous system and human behavior.

34 projects involving 108 scientists from 23 countries were selected for 2024 by the Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP), an international program that supports innovative, independent and original research in the fields of life sciences. This support is made possible thanks to international cooperation financially supported by Japan, Australia, Canada, the European Commission, France, Germany, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland and the USA. Since 1990, more than 8,500 researchers from more than 70 countries have been supported so far, 29 of whom went on to receive a Nobel Prize.

"We aim to reveal a new dimension of communication between the human body and bacteria," explained Prof. Mailer. "To investigate this intriguing idea, we will use advanced techniques that will reveal new insights into the complex relationship formed in the intestines, between the human body and bacteria."

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