Benjamin Willing

Canada Research Chair in Microbiology of Nutrigenomics

Tier 2 - 2017-11-01
University of Alberta
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council


Research involves

Manipulating microbial populations in the gastrointestinal tract and measuring their effects on the health of their host.

Research relevance

This research will lead to new strategies to promote intestinal health, and will help prevent immune and metabolic disease.

How Microbes Shape Us

When you take antibiotics, you may be making lifelong alterations to the most abundant cell population in your body—the thousands of microbial species in your gastrointestinal tract.

Microbes are involved in many major health issues facing medicine, including diabetes, heart disease, cancer, asthma and inflammatory bowel disease. However, microbe populations are unique to each individual, which is why people respond differently to dietary changes. In addition, little is known yet about the importance of the microbes themselves, or of the molecules produced by microbial populations.

Dr. Ben Willing, Canada Research Chair in Microbiology of Nutrigenomics, is investigating how specific microbes affect the production of molecules that, in turn, affect cell hosts.

Willing is removing bacterial populations from the gastrointestinal tract (the gut) to measure how changes in microbial populations affect molecule production. He is also examining the resulting changes in immune and metabolic function.

Willing’s work will improve understanding of microbes. His team’s results will lead to effective dietary strategies and the ability to identify new drug treatments to promote intestinal and immune health.