Bringing physiological research to Parliament

8th July 2022

In June, four of our scientists spoke to Members of Parliament about their research on the role of the microbiome in physiology. We caught up with them to find out more about the experience.

“We went to London to take part in the Parliamentary Celebration of Physiology Education and Teaching event at Portcullis House within the Houses of Parliament. The four of us are members of the Physiological Society and the society invited us to exhibit the work we do at the Quadram Institute”, explains Dr Priscilla Day-Walsh, who works on interactions between food bioactives and the gut microbiome.

Gemma Beasy a PhD student working on broccoli and prostate cancer continues, “The aim of the event was for physiologists and professionals to come together and to launch a joint case report showing the far-reaching benefits of physiology education and training to UK graduates, the economy and the society as a whole. Physiology is understanding the science of life at a molecular level, that helps us recognise the mechanisms of living, from cell function to the whole body”.

“While microbes might not seem an obvious aspect of physiology, it is becoming clear that microbiome research is key to overcoming two of the most important medical challenges of the 21st Century, metabolic diseases and antibiotic resistance. The microbiome is central to key aspects of physiology, from immune development and maturity to energy metabolism and cognitive function”, comments PhD student Emad Shehata who studies the role of polyphenols in the gut microbiome.

Dr Jennifer Ahn-Jarvis who works in dietary intervention trials, highlights the role of the Quadram Institute in addressing these challenges, “The work we do at the Quadram Institute includes food innovation and the emerging role of the gut microbiota in health and disease, including human studies that we carry out at the institute from early development (PEARL study), through mid-adulthood (Glycarb study and BETA study) to late adulthood (MOTION study).”

“A highlight of the event was when we spoke to Stephen Metcalfe MP about our research and put the Quadram Institute on the map for physiological research”, reflects Gemma.

“It was fantastic to see the other MPs attending too, including the Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities Anneliese Dodds and Norwich South MP Clive Lewis. Clive Lewis attended in his role as the Shadow Minister for Sustainable Economics, showing the importance of science and education to the UK economy.  While we were not able to speak to Mr Lewis, it was nevertheless important to know that East Anglia was well represented at the launch of this important document”, says Priscilla.

“Visiting the Houses of Parliament was a great opportunity to meet other physiology professionals and MPs from across the country, discuss the importance of understanding the role of the microbiome in the context of physiological research and the work we do at the Quadram Institute”, concludes Emad.