The University of Colorado Boulder reports that it has received a grant to study how gut microbes in humans and animals are affected by stressors such as sleep deprivation.

Department of Defense officials hope the five-year award will help scientists determine which specific changes in gut bacteria occur in response to sleep disturbances and the misalignment of 24-hour circadian rhythms. The team will be searching for countermeasures as a way to increase stress resilience during U.S. Navy operations, said CU-Boulder Professor Kenneth Wright of the Department of Integrative Physiology, lead investigator on the effort.

Previous human and animal studies, including several led by CU-Boulder, have shown the potential health influence of the more than 10 trillion microbes believed to inhabit each individual human body. Scientists have evidence the collection of gut microbes in humans may influence obesity, anxiety, depression, autism and even cancer.

The effort by the team members is unique because they will be studying mice, rats and humans simultaneously, said Wright, who directs CU-Boulder’s Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory. Wright and his colleagues will be looking to link changes in the types of microbiota to physiological, cognitive and emotional responses.

“We increasingly recognize that the microbiome is important for human health and well-being,” said Wright. “If we can find ways to protect healthy microbiota under sleep-deprived conditions, for example, then the health and performance of military personnel could improve.”

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