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Fermentation Research

Fermentation research study by Jason Soares-- a chemical engineer at the Natick Soldier Research, Advancement and Engineering Center-- is at the heart, or rather the gut, of NSRDEC's early research study to improve Soldier health and efficiency.

Early research is a fundamental part of the objective of NSRDEC, laying the groundwork for discovery and innovation to improve Soldier protection and lifestyle.

Soares, who operates in NSRDEC's Warfighter Directorate, is examining gut germs, focusing on the bio-fermentation element. NSRDEC chemical engineer Laurel Doherty is Soares' colleague and does a lot of the hands-on work. This early research in gut bacteria will become utilized to enhance rations to help Soldiers fight the effects of stress and to improve their total performance.

"Fermentation offers you a tool to mimic what is occurring in the gut in a lab setting," said Soares. "An actual colon has 3 domains. Our fermentation system can be set up so we can actually see and experiment under the conditions of all three domains of the colon.

"Part of our work was really developing that model to use as a tool for our research. So we are not only studying fermentation, we are, at the laboratory level, developing the tools to make our fermentation more relevant. We are developing the methods to study the particular issue that we are trying to address."

Soares and his NSRDEC coworkers work carefully with U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine. USARIEM is studying the effects of changing to a diet plan of Meals, Ready-to-Eat, which Soldiers often consume in remote or fight situations. The findings will be shown NSRDEC's Combat Feeding Directorate to supply insights into provision enhancements.

"We can factor in the special stresses faced by the warfighter," said Soares. "We partner with USARIEM, and they provide us the samples that allow us to do our warfighter-centric research study. The work we are doing is associated with USARIEM's 21-day MRE study. So the stress factor is a rapid change in diet. This imitates the training cycle that Soldiers go through."

The samples from the study will allow Soares to observe how the tension of dietary changes impacts gut bacteria.

"We will be able to understand what bacteria play a role in that tension state," stated Soares. "Then we'll see if we can introduce foods that will help them conquer the stress of needing to alter their diet plans immediately. Individuals do adapt to modifications in diet plan gradually, however during that recovery time, warfighters still have to perform their objectives and multiple duties."

The fast modification in diet can cause gastrointestinal issues.

"Bacterial diarrhea, caused by GI tension, is among the leading infectious illness for warfighters," said Soares. "This type of health problem can have a major impact on capability to carry out a mission due to the issues that occur from it. So, what we're doing at the laboratory level is gaining knowledge. Our result is going to be the understanding that we will show Combat Feeding, who can then make exploratory ration parts that could potentially be used by USARIEM in a medical trial."

Initial research study and the development of a knowledge base are necessary steps in the research and development procedure-- steps that make whatever that comes after them possible.

"What Laurel and I are wanting to leave our work is info that will form the basis for future research study," stated Soares. "It's a really important step in the procedure, but it is a step that isn't constantly noticeable. Yet this underlying science is actually essential for getting services to the Soldier."

Gut bacteria research study is especially relevant to the warfighter due to the fact that what occurs in an individual's gut can impact overall physical and cognitive function.

"What takes place in your gut can really impact your brain," said Soares.

"It has actually been connected to depression, anxiety and memory," stated Doherty.

"It impacts your immune system and health," stated Soares.

Soares hopes that in a few years, he and his NSRDEC colleagues will establish a fermentation tool to study the small intestine, as well.

"We will connect the new tool to the large intestine/colon model," said Soares. "This tool might even more our research study into the impact of stress and diet on the warfighter."

Although gut bacteria research study is being extensively performed, NSRDEC's research specifies to the warfighter.

"What I truly like about this work is to do my part in assisting the warfighter by assisting him or her to feel better, carry out better, since what they do is incredible," said Soares. "The gut work is great due to the fact that we have that type of connection to the warfighter. I love that we can tie our work to a warfighter-centric problem and know that what we are performing in the long term can benefit the warfighter."

"I like the truth that this task is a direct path attending to a real and defined need," said Doherty. "We can see how this research will assist Soldiers down the road."

"The understanding constantly results in something," stated Soares. "The gut microbiome could be a substantial part of our future health methods."