Trina Gartke

“What I find most fascinating about my research is the ability to appreciate the considerable complexity of the gut microbiome that works for our body 24/7.”

The influence of fibre byproducts on bacterial invasion in pediatric inflammatory bowel diseases

Chronic debilitating inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), primarily Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, are marked by inflammation and damage to the digestive tract with incidence rates rising rapidly in the pediatric population. IBD has a complex path of development and progression, with many contributing factors such as genetics, the environment, microbes and the immune system. Though the exact cause is unknown, current evidence suggests that an environmental trigger leads to individuals with certain genes developing imbalances in their immune system and gut microbiome—the collection of microbes living in our digestive tract. Diet has been shown to be the most influential environmental risk factor contributing to IBD, with fibre being an identified dietary component with a significant impact on IBD risk and management.

The gut microbiome plays an important role in the breakdown of fibres into their byproducts, short chain fatty acids (SCFAs). If individuals have an altered gut microbiome, as seen in IBD or prior to developing the disease, proper breakdown of fibres may be impaired, leading to changes in the gut environment such as with the composition of SCFAs. These environmental alterations caused by dietary patterns could stimulate normal bacteria to become invasive and contribute to IBD development. Since nutritional therapy is a first-line treatment unique to pediatric IBD, further understanding of how diet interacts with the gut microbiome is critical to providing appropriate treatment for children with IBD. This study seeks to determine how SCFAs may influence bacterial invasion and contribute to IBD development and progression. Bacterial invasion will be assessed with a cell model using patient-derived bacterial samples along with gut surface or immune cells. Results will help inform future dietary and therapeutic recommendations to treat IBD, especially in the pediatric population.

Trina Gartke was supervised by Eytan Wine and her summer studentship was funded by the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation. She is enrolled in the Doctor of Medicine program.