MINERVA in a Snapshot

MINERVA: MIcrobiota-Gut-BraiN EngineeRed platform to eVAluate intestinal microflora impact on brain functionality

What is the relation between the intestinal microflora and the brain in the development of neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease?

Afunctional relation between the intestinal microflora (microbiota) and thebrain, referred to as the “microbiota-gut-brain axis”, was hypothesized morethan 100 years ago but only recently has been re-evaluated becoming a new,exciting hypothesis in neuroscience. We have the proof that aging, badalimentary habits, poor food quality and stress can affect our intestinalmicrobiota: the impact of this modification on brain functionality has beenobserved but the absence of suitable research tools does not allow verifyingthis research hypothesis.

Our aim is to overcome this limitation through a bioengineering approach: we will develop the first microbiota-gut-brain platform relying on three miniaturized microfluidic compartments, representing in vitro the most important features of microbiota-brain interaction. Once validated, the platform will be challenged in healthy and neurodegenerative scenarios by using human complete microbiota.

MINERVA has a ground breaking potential: the proof of a causal link between intestinal microbiota and brain functionality would completely change the actual scenario, shifting the investigation of neurodegenerative disorders causes from the brain to the body periphery.

MINERVA is a high gain project: if its vision succeeds, neurodegenerative disorders will benefit from new, cost effective, low invasive preventative and therapeutic strategies based on microbiota management by food ingredient and probiotics with an enormous beneficial impact worldwide.

MINERVAwill provide a versatile platform that will overcome the strong limitationsarising from the current in vivo models and standard in vitro tools: bychanging cell type or culturing conditions, it could address microbiota impactnot only on neurodegenerative disorders, but also on other severeother-than-nervous pathologies.

MINERVA (MIcrobiota-Gut-BraiN EngineeRed platform to eVAluate intestinal microflora impact on brain functionality) is a project funded by the European Research Council under the call ERC Consolidator Grant 2016.

MINERVA main goal is the development of an innovative technological platform to investigate the relation between the intestinal microflora and brain functionality in healthy and pathological conditions.

Carmen Giordano, the principal investigator, and MINERVA research team will be hosted by Politecnico di Milano, Italy.

Here it is possible to read the CORDIS article about the ERC MINERVA project.