Harriet Schellekens

Department of Neuroscience & Anatomy / APC Microbiome Ireland, University College Cork, Ireland


Dr. Schellekens is a Lecturer in the department of Anatomy & Neuroscience since 2014 and a faculty member with the APC Microbiome Ireland (http://apc.ucc.ie/harriett_schellekens/). She received a PhD (2012) in Pharmacy from the University College Cork, Ireland and an MSc in Biology and Medical Biology (Hons; 2006) from the Radboud University in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. She was awarded a Marie Curie Host Fellowship for Transfer of Knowledge (TOK) in 2006. She has gained considerable experience in the pharmaceutical industry in R&D and drug discovery at Organon NV (Akzo Nobel) and Eirx therapeutics. She worked with Food for Health Ireland (FHI, http://www.fhi.ie/) towards the development of dairy-derived hydrolysates as functional foods and neutraceuticals and with APC Microbiome Ireland to identify gut bacteria-derived metabolites with health benefits. Harriet has an h-index of 17 (google scholar) and has published over 35 peer-reviewed publications with >1000 citations and 4 book chapters.

Research interest:

  • Impact of diet & nutrition and the gut microbiota on human health and physiology, in particular metabolic health, appetite and food reward, mental health and cognitive health throughout life.

  • Neuronal circuitry and signaling mechanism underlying the complex relationship between food intake, mood and stress.

  • Pharmacology and crosstalk of G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) in the CNS regulating feeding behavior, social behavior and mood.


A Microbiome Menu: The microbiota-gut-brain axis at the interface of appetite, food and mood

The intestinal microbiota plays an important role in the gut-brain axis, regulating host metabolism, dietary energy harvest, energy storage and expenditure and maintaining overall energy homeostasis. Evidence has emerged demonstrating a role for the gut microbiota in the onset and progression of obesity and metabolic disease. The obese microbiota has been linked to insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, inflammation and fat deposition. The gut microbiota and its metabolites may also regulate central appetite and food reward signaling and modify behaviours relevant to food intake behavior. A growing body of research is therefore focusing on the ability of the microbiome to affect various brain processes via gut hormone secretion, vagal stimulation, production of circulating metabolites or via immune-neuroendocrine mechanisms. Here we demonstrate the identification of novel bacteria-derived metabolites and dietary-derived bioactives using our in-house cellular-based functional screening platform, with the potential to modulate metabolism, appetite and food intake.