Meet the Guardians of the Gut

Who are the scaled-down superheroes battling baddies in our gut, and keeping us in tip-top health? Find out as the Hall Lab at the Quadram Institute introduce you to 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.

At The Guardians of the Gut exhibit you can explore the amazing variety of bacteria that colonise our gut, and the roles they play in our growth, development and wellbeing. Walking through a giant interactive gut you can explore the different roles microbes play. You’ll get the chance to find out what happens if you change your diet, or if you have to take a course of antibiotics. And you can explore the new bacterial therapies that are being developed by the Hall lab to manipulate the microbiota to combat diseases.

The Guardians of the Gut has been developed by the Hall Lab at the Quadram Institute.  They 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.

Dr Lindsay Hall: ‘We’re thrilled that our Guardians of the Gut exhibit has been selected for this prestigious Royal Society event. We can’t wait to engage with the public during this week long science exhibition, and bring our microbial galaxy to life!’

Guardians of the Gut has been funded by a Wellcome Trust Engagement Fellowship, a Microbiology Society Microbiology in Society Award 2018 and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, who provide strategic support to the Quadram Institute.

The Summer Science Exhibition 2018 runs from Monday 2 July to Sunday 8 July at The Royal Society, London. Every year, the Royal Society celebrates cutting edge research from around the UK by bringing together researchers from a variety of scientific disciplines and institutions under one roof for a week of free science fun. 22 exhibits offer children and adults alike the chance to get hands on with the latest technologies and science and meet the researchers behind the breakthroughs.

Notes to editors:

A preview for media will be held on the morning of Monday 2 July 2018 from 9.30am before the exhibition opens to the public. Journalists can register their interest in attending the preview with the Royal Society press office – 0207 451 2508. There will ample opportunity to photograph, audio and video record the exhibits on show on the morning of 2 July. Researchers will also be available for interviews throughout the week, so any media unable to attend on 2 July are welcome to drop into the exhibition throughout the week.

The Summer Science Exhibition is located in the Royal Society, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5 AG (nearest tube station is Piccadilly Circus) and takes place from Monday 2 July to Sunday 8 July 2018. The event is FREE.

About the Royal Society:

The Royal Society is a self-governing Fellowship of many of the world’s most distinguished scientists drawn from all areas of science, engineering, and medicine. The Society’s fundamental purpose, reflected in its founding Charters of the 1660s, is to recognise, promote, and support excellence in science and to encourage the development and use of science for the benefit of humanity.

The Royal Society has held a Summer Science Exhibition to showcase the best of UK science since its early days, when Fellows of the Society were invited to the President’s home to view instruments and specimens from the latest research. Presidents have hosted displays and discussions of the latest scientific research since the early nineteenth century. Visitors in 1896 had their hands x-rayed while those in 1910 could view novel pictures of Halley’s Comet. New technology such as Thomas Edison’s incandescent lamps were exhibited in 1889 while Captain Scott’s Terra Nova expedition to Antarctica 1914 showcased natural history specimens.