Nutrigenomics and nutrimicrobiomics

A.Y. 2019/2020
Overall hours
BIO/18 BIO/19
Learning objectives
The course aims to provide a general view of the experimental approaches and areas of investigation in nutrigenomics and nutrimicrobiomics, with particular attention to the most recent aspects of these emerging research fields.
Expected learning outcomes
At the end of the course, students are expected to have acquired (i) a deep knowledge of the mechanism by which feeding habits affect gene expression and how this can be related to the onset of diseases; (ii) the knowledge of the experimental approaches used in nutrigenomic to evaluate the effects of specific nutrients in the treatment of chronic and degenerative diseases; (iii) the understanding of the mechanisms by which genetic variability affect the outcome of dietary regimes; (iv) the basic concepts of main pathogen-host interaction; (v) the knowledge of the microbiote funtions, by either a microbiological and a immunological point of view; (vi) the concept of disbiosis and of the gut-brain axis, with specific examples of main related pathologies. Students, by means of the skills acquired through this and other courses, is expected to have acquired the principle by which design highly personalized diets able to positively impact one's microbiote.
Course syllabus and organization

Single session

Lesson period
Second semester
Course syllabus
· Definition and research approaches of nutrigenomics.
· Introduction to "omic" technologies applied to nutrigenomics.
· Effect of diet on epigenetic modifications of the genome in animal models and humans (nutriepigenetics).
· Mechanisms of action of nutrient sensors: examples of direct and indirect regulation of gene expression.
· Effect of diet on genome stability: role of micronutrient deficiencies in DNA damage and cancer.
· Effect of diet on the incidence of chronic diseases. Functional foods and their use on animal models to study prevention of chronic and age-related diseases (obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer, neurodegenerative diseases).
· Caloric restriction and longevity.
· Examples of nutrigenetics.
·Microorganisms: taxonomy, virulence factors and pathogenicity.
·Role and relevance of microorganisms in foods.
·Foodborne diseases: virulence factors and pathogenic mechanisms, bacterial toxins, adherence and invasion mechanisms.
·Gut Microbiota: composition, phyla and enterotypes. Microbial-microbial and host-microbial interactions. Properties and immunobiological effects of Prebiotics and Probiotics.
·Dysbiosis: microbiota alterations in human diseases and immune evasion strategies of pathogenic microorganisms.
·"OMICS" technologies in Nutrimicrobiomics: metagenomics and metatranscriptomics.
·Analysis and characterization of gut microbiota in the pathogenesis of different chronic inflammatory diseases.
·Gut-Brain axis: mechanism of bidirectional communication between microbiota and the central/enteric nervous system. Microbiome alteration and its relationship to neurodegenerative diseases.
Prerequisites for admission
Student needs to know basic concepts of Genetics and General microbiology
Teaching methods
Teaching method: Lectures with slides. Regular attendance and active participation during classes are strongly recommended to improve the understanding of the topics.
Teaching Resources
During the course, an updated bibliography of teaching subjects, consisting of original articles and recent reviews, will be provided. Teaching materials (lecture slides, articles, links to web sites) will be available on Ariel.
Assessment methods and Criteria
The evalutation will be divided in two written exams: the first written exam will be related to nutrigenomics and will consist of multiple choice tests (75%) and open questions (25%). The second written exam will be related to nutrimicrobiomics and will consist of open questions. In both exams, open questions will evaluate the acquisition of basic knowledge about scientific definitions and the ability to describe specific concepts/notions with a correct scientific language.
BIO/18 - GENETICS - University credits: 0
BIO/19 - MICROBIOLOGY - University credits: 0
Lessons: 48 hours
upon request of an appointment