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UCI HEAL Initiative Team Building Research Grant:
Award Announcement

Gut-Brain Axis Interactions in Opioid Use

Shahrdad Lotfipour PhD, UCI School of Medicine, Department of Emergency Medicine and Department of Pharmacology (Principal Investigator) Bharath Chakravarthy, MD, UCI School of Medicine, Vice Chair of Research and Academic Affairs Emergency Medicine (Coinvestigator) Jennifer Martiny PhD, Professor, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology School of Biological Sciences Director, UCI Microbiome Center (Coinvestigator)


The goal of this team building project is to develop capacity at UCI to compete effectively for ongoing NIH HEAL Initiative funding opportunities (Help End Addiction Long Term-- https://www.nih.gov/research-training/medical-research-initiatives/heal-initiative).

Project Summary: Emerging data illustrate that components of the gut microbiome, i.e. bacteria, are significant contributors to drug reward. Whether such effects could directly influence opioid intake is unknown. The central hypothesis of this project is that the gut microbiome is an important regulator of reward, emotion and motivation brain circuitry. The project aims to provide a causal role of gut bacteria influencing opioid use. Such studies could lead to the development of novel therapeutics in order to sustain a healthy homeostasis within the gut microbiome, thus leading to better treatment efficacy and reduced abuse. Our findings would have a significant impact in the scientific and public health communities given our current opioid addiction epidemic.

This unique award was made possible by the generous support of Dean Michael Stamos, School of Medicine, Dr. Alpesh Amin, Chair of Medicine, Dr. Scott Engwall, Chair of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Care, and the ICTS. This collaboration will help place UCI in the forefront of the national effort to mitigate the crisis in opioid addiction that is afflicting so many across the nation.