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Nhu Nguyen’s poster, entitled “Effects of Sutherlandia Dietary Supplement on Cytokine Levels”, summarizes her work on investigating the effects of Sutherlandia - a South African medicinal plant - on diabetes using rats as an animal model.

Sutherlandia is a South African plant that is widely consumed as a dietary supplement and a traditional remedy for diabetes. Nevertheless, scientific evidence for its safety and utility is limited. Therefore, her study aims to explore its effects on diabetes using rats as an animal model. An enzyme-linked immunoassay (ELISA) was used to evaluate levels of Interleukin-2, which is a biological compound that regulates insulin action. The results showed that IL-2 concentrations were lower in rats fed a high-fat diet supplemented with Sutherlandia compared to those fed the same high-fat diet without Sutherlandia. This result indicates Sutherlandia may disturb insulin function and therefore lead to increased blood glucose; consequently, more research is required regarding the risks and benefits of Sutherlandia.

Nhu Nguyen is a third-year graduate student in Genetics at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Last year she also presented a poster about an immunological assay that is designed to measure a major biological marker called Sutherlandiosides in this Sutherlandia plant.

Huan Truong and his poster

Also a third-year PhD. student, Huan Truong presents his work in the field of Bioinformatics. He aims to understand the social network of bacteria in human intestine through a research named “Oerational Taxonomic Units Classification with 16S rDNA Untanglisng the Microorganisms’ Social Network”

Understanding what kind of bacteria live in certain environments (in the intestines of human or mice or in a certain type of soil) could be very useful in explaining certain phenomena, for example, why some people have a higher metabolic rate than others (can we make a probiotic pill to make everyone fit?). However, answering the question how many kinds of bacteria are present and what they are is tricky: We know dogs are not cats because they do not interbreed, but it is hard to tell bacterium A from bacterium B, because the bacteria do not have a clear-cut definition of species. In this work, Huan Truong and his colleagues try to evaluate whether using a certain fragment of DNA combined with different computer algorithms could help scientists answer such fundamental question.

Missouri Life Sciences Week is MU’s premier annual science event. As a forum for life sciences research collaboration, Life Sciences Week targets public policy issues, science education and outreach, and entrepreneurship/economic development. Since the beginning in 1985, the events has been attracted around 1,000 academic researchers, over 300 research posters as well as many businesses and policy makers.

(Information taken from Missouri Life Sciences Week website)