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You are what you eat - is that true?

How do our diet and gut microbiome influence the immune system and the transition from health to disease?

Our deputy project coordinator, Chotima Böttcher, from Charité, opens our blog series where we dive deeper into the IMMEDIATE project and give insights into our research of the "diet-microbiome-metabolite-immune axis" to enhance our understanding of the mechanisms and molecular pathways that underpin health-to-disease transitions.


It is still largely unclear how much influence our genes, our diet and our gut microbiome have on our health and the transition from a healthy to a diseased state. Charité and the research teams in several European countries and Israel are trying to answer these questions as part of the EU-funded "IMMEDIATE" project and to look for strategies to maintain health and ways to detect diseases at an early stage.

Being healthy and staying healthy

Inflammation is a natural process that helps the body to heal and protect itself from damage. However, inflammation is harmful when it becomes chronic. Chronic inflammation can precede organ damage, which later develops into clinical manifestations such as chronic kidney disease (CKD), cardiovascular disease (CVD), type 2 diabetes (T2D) or brain damage. The identification of biomarkers (both risk and resilience factors) at the pre-symptomatic stage should enable personalised interventions and prevent manifest diseases. The IMMEDIATE team initially plans to better understand the inflammatory processes that precede organ dysfunction or damage. The scientists are using meta and clinical data as well as biomaterials from three ongoing observational studies: the German NAKO health study, the Israeli 10k study and a cohort of kidney transplant patients.

The whole person through AI?

To understand chronic diseases, we need to look at the human being, e.g. from the gut to the brain. The gut is an important interface between the human organism and the environment and a driving force that orchestrates the regulation of inflammatory responses and maintains balance. Dietary habits are an important factor that can affect gut homeostasis and thus inflammatory responses. Gut microbiota and its metabolic apparatus produce numerous metabolites that serve as important messengers between diet, microbiota, and host. The IMMEDIATE team focuses on studying the dynamic regulation of the axis between nutrition, microbiome, metabolism, and the immune system using omics technologies and artificial intelligence (AI). AI is a discipline of computer science that examines large amounts of data in order to recognize certain relevant patterns that humans could easily overlook. Using AI, the IMMEDIATE team plans to develop a predictive model based on statistical associations between the microbiome, metabolism, immune system, and patient data. This model should be able to predict the transition from health to disease at an individual level.

Stay tuned for more insights as we continue our journey towards empowering individuals to manage their own health proactively.