Stuart Lau

Supervisor: Anita Kozyrskyj

Project: The impact of caesarean delivery on infant neurodevelopment


Edmonton, AB

Degree program:

Bachelor of Science with Honors in Microbiology and Immunology

What's been the best part of your experience so far?

The best part of this summer is meeting and interacting with people involved in research, whether they are from Dr. Kozyrskyj's SyMBIOTA lab or from attending weekly seminars. It has been the most impactful part of my experience as I have learned to value the importance of knowledge transfer between labs and researchers. The opportunity to hear and discuss with colleagues who also share a common passion and goal in improving human health has been an eye-opening experience.

How has your studentship helped you towards your career aspirations?

I believe that this summer studentship has been an impactful step towards my long-term goal of pursuing a career in healthcare and research. Working with doctors, professors, PhDs and medical and masters students, it has given me insights to the diligence, time and effort required to conduct research. Unfortunately, sometimes, the nature and time constraints of the university tend to promote blind memorization of information rather than its application. This opportunity to conduct research has been a rewarding experience that has allowed me to apply my knowledge from the lecture halls into a real-world scenario in a world-class clinical research facility with excellent mentorship from Dr. Kozyrskyj. I feel privileged to have taken part in this studentship as it has pushed me to improve my communication skills, confidence, professionalism, and ability to work well in a team. These transferable skills will stick with me throughout my career and push me along towards my future goals.

Lay abstract:

As mammals, we are dependent on our brains for survival, critical thinking, and emotional intelligence. Emerging animal model studies suggest that the bacteria of our gut, or the microbiome, affects neurodevelopment during infancy. This discovery may change the way we view the emergence of neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. The microbiome of infants is heavily dependent on the maternal microbiome composition and is impacted by the child's mode of birth. Cesarean section (CS) births have been shown to affect the abundance and diversity of microbes in the infant's gut which can cause a microbial imbalance in the body, known as microbiota dysbiosis. CS-births have been linked to certain infant health risks, including food allergies, asthma, and obesity. Some literature suggests that there is an association between CS delivery and neurodevelopment, as well as an increased risk of neurodevelopmental delay, but current information is still scarce. Currently, there is little consensus regarding whether this risk of neurodevelopmental delay is directly impacted by CS-related microbiota changes or if there are confounding factors to blame. As such, we are conducting a systematic review to determine the consensus on the association between CS-delivery and neurodevelopment disorders as well as the role of CS-induced gut microbiota dysbiosis in mediating this link. Data analysis and interpretation of the CHILD cohort data at the Edmonton site will also be used to find associations between CS-delivery and risk for neurodevelopmental disorders to support the systematic review.