Sam Light receives grant from the Brinson Foundation to study the gut microbiome and type 2 diabetes

The Brinson Medical Research Fellowship provides seed funding for early career investigators

Sam Light, PhD, Neubauer Family Assistant Professor of Microbiology at the University of Chicago, has received a $200,000, two-year Brinson Medical Research Fellowship to study the relationship of the gut microbiome to glucose tolerance in type 2 diabetes.

Light joined the Department of Microbiology and Duchossois Family Institute in 2019. His research takes a molecular approach to address the role of gut microbes in human health and disease. His interests include determining the role of major metabolic activities on complex microbial ecosystems and describing the effect of such processes on a mammalian host. In recent years, his work has focused on the discovery and characterization of an unexpected “electricity-producing” activity that is shared by a diverse set of microbes.

The Brinson Fellowship will support a project in Light’s lab to understand how recently discovered microbes in the human gut contribute to type 2 diabetes. These microbes convert dietary protein into a small molecule called imidazole propionate (ImP) that enters the bloodstream and impairs glucose tolerance. Light and his team hope to identify the microbes responsible for ImP production and characterize the enzymes responsible for producing it in order to potentially develop treatments that target these processes.

The Brinson Foundation has been supporting researchers in the Biological Sciences Division since 2001, giving more than $4 million over the past 20 years. The Fellowships are designed to provide seed funding for early career investigators to allow them to gather preliminary data to prepare for larger, competitive federal grants later in their careers.

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