Dr. Harriët Schellekens’ group investigates the impact of diet & nutrition and the gut microbiome on human health and physiology, in particular metabolic health, food intake behavior and stress-related disorders throughout life. She uses mechanistic and translational studies bridging basic and clinical aspects of neuroscience and nutrition to investigate the concept of the link between metabolic disease and mental health, and the potential amelioration of both via microbiome targeted approaches. Her laboratory investigates the mechanism of the bi-directional communication between brain and gut microbiota, including immune-neuroendocrine pathways, gut-brain axis receptors, and signaling via microbiota-derived metabolites. She has a specific interest in the exploration of the gut microbiota as a mediator of gut-brain signaling underlying the complex relationship between food, mood and stress.
Dr. Schellekens has established a targeted nutraceutical approach to identify novel functional bacterial strains and prebiotics as modulators of gut-brain axis signaling, and to fast-track the most promising pro- and prebiotics as effective biotherapeutics against obesity and stress for commercial distribution. The application of an in vitro modular screening platform, comprising high-to-medium throughput in silico, biochemical and cellular assays is a crucial step in the successful evidence-based mechanistic and translational development of functional pre and probiotics with metabolic and psychobiotic potential.