Meet The Researcher

associate professor laurence macia

Associate Professor Laurence Macia

University of Sydney

Let's get started! Tell us an interesting fact about yourself.
I am a French scientist passionate about the impact of nutrition on the immune response. I think that we do many things wrong, an obvious example is the consumption of processed and unhealthy diets. Our immune system has evolved for thousands of years to extract its energy from simple and balanced food. For instance, the fact that we eat food additives, which are often nanoparticles, is very confusing for our immune system which will trigger its activation and thus inflammation. It is simple to take a step back and just think on our evolution and what humans should be doing, which involves moderate but regular physical activity, healthy diet and reduced stress. I want as a scientist to convince the community that we are meant to live simpler lives to maintain our health.
What inspired you to get involved in MS research?
MS is an autoimmune disease which means that the immune system for unknown reason will by mistake attack cells in our body. The immune system is strongly affected by its environment and I want to investigate whether and how changes in diet could be a strategy to re-educate the immune system and thus improve patients’ lives. My passion for nutrition and immunity led me into MS research.
What do you think has been the most exciting development in MS research?
There was a very exciting study published in Cell last year showing that gut bacterial product could improve disease severity in MS patients. This molecule is called propionic acid and is produced by gut bacteria when we consume dietary fibre. If this treatment is efficient it would be a totally novel safe approach to treat the disease or to potentiate the efficacy current treatments.
Tell us about your current research project...
My research projects investigate the mechanisms behind the effects of diet and gut microbiota on immune function as well as the impact of inflammatory diseases on the gut microbiota. We have interesting articles under review on how the gut microbiota might affect the development of anti-inflammatory cells and how specific diets might impact B lymphocytes development and function.
Why is your research important and how will it influence the understanding and treatment of MS?
It will determine whether particular diets might help control the immune system to reduce MS severity. This work might lead to novel personalised dietary recommendation for MS patients.
What do you enjoy most about working in the lab and what are some of the challenges you face?
Learning everyday something new is to me the best aspect of research. The biggest challenge is to face daily failure and negative results but the day we find something interesting all the negative aspects are erased.
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Associate Professor Laurence Macia