Supervisor: Eytan Wine
Project: Finding the relationship between fibre and gut diseases in children
Doctor of Medicine
What do you get to work on throughout your studentship?
I get to work with various cell lines to see how they respond when treated with fibre or fibre that has been fermented by different microbes. I also get to see how epithelial cells respond to fibre and whether their integrity is affected. I have specifically been working with macrophage cell lines, T cells lines, epithelial cell lines, and primary human tissues from our clinical cohort.
How has your studentship helped you towards your career aspirations?
After completing my first year of medical school, I hope to complement my practice with research relevant to my future patient population. This studentship has allowed me to see that this is possible and also helped me to develop skills related to the merging of basic science research and patient outcomes. This studentship has also helped me develop communication and presentation skills, which are applicable to any field, especially medicine.
The number of children diagnosed with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), such as Crohn's and ulcerative colitis (UC), is increasing rapidly. Dietary factors and the bacteria found in your gut have been associated with an increased risk for these diseases. These bacteria are important for metabolism and interactions with the immune system and when changed, have been linked to bowel disease. Our diet has a critical role in shaping the gut microbes and their effects. Therefore, understanding how these bacteria work in digesting foods, especially fibre, and how the food we eat changes the types of bacteria in the gut may help develop treatments for IBD. Fibre isn't digested in the small intestine and undergoes fermentation by gut microbes. We hypothesize that unfermented fibre can interact and react with our immune system, causing inflammation. In patients with IBD, this immune interaction is likely further increased as there are more immune components in the gut for the fibres to react with. Studies have shown more easily fermented fibres may be able to reduce the inflammation in IBD patients. By understanding the relationship between fibre, bacteria and IBD, we hope to identify the types of fibres that promote “healthy” bacteria in patients and develop patient specific dietary recommendations.