Obesity and type 2 diabetes are global challenges of pandemic proportions and need new multidimensional and personalized approaches. Gut microbiota contributes to obesity, diabetes and related metabolic diseases. Indeed, gut dysbiosis is one of the major factors underlying the obesity-related inflammatory environment. However, probiotics are still not used within the common clinical practice.

In this context, at the IISPV the “Diabetes and Metabolic Associated Diseases” Research Group, which belongs to CIBERDEM (Spanish Biomedical Research Center in Diabetes and Associated Metabolic Disorders), is currently working on the development of a novel probiotic strategy composed by bacteria able to decrease succinate, which is overall a pro-inflammatory factor. The research team has in vivo data from diet-induced obese mice showing that oral administration of certain succinate-consuming strains is able to decrease obesity-induced inflamation. This approach reveals a novel mechanism for the management of obesity and energy metabolic syndrome. The team is also working on the development of a companion diagnostics kit based on the follow-up of succinate, which would suppose a step forward towards a personalized and rational use of probiotics.

This new tool for improving health status that integrates a probiotic and a self-monitoring kit will help to control obesity and type 2 diabetes not only from the clinical perspective but also from the social and psychological perspective, helping patients to gain control, knowledge and confidence on their health status and hopefully improve treatment adherence not only to the probiotic product but also to a healthier lifestyle and diet.

With the ultimate aim of reaching the patients, researchers from IISPV are now seeking for a strategic partner for further developing this promising invention.

Project financed by the European Union through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the support from La Caixa Research Foundation, the Carlos III Health Institute (ISCIII), the Catalan Agency for Management of University and Research Grants (AGAUR) IU68-017106, the “Fundación para la Innovación y la Prospectiva en salud en España” (FIPSE) and the Universitat Rovira I Virgili. The Spanish Biomedical Research Center in Diabetes and Associated Metabolic Disorders (CIBERDEM) (CB07708/0012) is an initiative of the Instituto de Salud Carlos III. The project has also been awarded with the second prize in the last edition of Barcelona Imagine If Acceleration program.


Crohn’s Disease is a chronic, or long-term, condition that causes inflammation of the digestive tract. Around 3.4 million people in Europe have this disease and 10 million worldwide. The chronic inflammation affects not only the digestive tract but also stem cells contained in fat around it, worsening the condition of the patient.

One of the most common therapies to treat Crohn’s disease is application of patients’ fat stem cells. In this line, researchers from the Pere Virgili Health Research Institute (IISPV), the Rovira i Virgili University (URV) and the Biomedical Research Center Network (CIBER in Spanish) for Diabetes and Associated Metabolic Diseases (CIBERDEM) have shown that these same fat stem cells play a non-innocent role in the disease treatment.

The results obtained from the European research project ECCO (European Crohn’s and Colitis Organization) led by Dr. Carolina Serena from the Diabetes and Associated Metabolic Diseases (DIAMET) were recently published in the prestigious journal Clinical Epigenetics. The results of the study proved that stem cells promote inflammation despite the patient showing signs of recovery. In part this behaviour is due to changes in the DNA from fat stem cells induced by Crohn’s disease itself. This new insight led to the conclusion that fat stem cells of the patient are unsuitable for use in therapy.

Dr. Serena remarks: “Understanding how Crohn’s disease alters the functionality of fat stem cells is crucial for the understanding of this disease pathophysiology, as well as to succeed with efficient therapy development. This type of research can only be performed in close collaboration between clinical researchers who are experts in Crohn’s disease and fundamental researchers“.

Crohn’s disease can occur at any age, however it is most often diagnosed in adolescents and adults between the ages of 20 and 30. Up to date, the exact causes of this disease are unknown and, although there are known treatments that allow to keep the disease under control, they are far from being considered definitive therapies.

The DIAMET stands out for having an extensive knowledge in this research area, investigating the role of fat stem cells in pathologies such as obesity and diabetes.

Article reference: Serena, C., Millan, M., Ejarque, M. et al. Adipose stem cells from patients with Crohn’s disease show a distinctive DNA methylation pattern. Clin Epigenet 12, 53 (2020).