Alexis Cox, Florence Mumbi, and Ella Missey: Exploring the Role of Gut Microbiome and Celiac Disease

Our names are Ella Missey, Florence Mumbi, and Alexis Cox; we are very excited to meet you! Ella and Florence are both biochemistry majors going into their third year at FSU and Alexis is a biology major going into her fourth year. Alexis, Flo, and Ella all plan to go to medical school. Alexis wants to specialize in family medicine, Ella wants to study virology, and Flo hopes to attend an MD/PhD program. We will be researching with Dr. Ravinder Nagpal in the College of Human Sciences. We are very excited for the opportunity to do research with the IDEA Grant at FSU and hope our project is interesting to you. 

Alexis Cox

Our project focuses on the relationships between celiac disease and the gut microbiome. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects approximately 1% of the American population. The intestines react to gluten, a molecule found in wheat, barley, and rye, in an autoimmune response that causes the immune system to attack its own cells. This results in a multitude of symptoms, most commonly abdominal pain and vitamin deficiencies. Celiac patients become vitamin deficient because the immune system prevents intestinal cells from absorbing nutrients when gluten is present within the system. Additionally, those with celiac are more likely to develop other autoimmune disorders and stomach complications when continually exposed to gluten. In spite of prevalence and complications of the disorder, there is not much research regarding celiac disease. We have personal motivations to change this through research, as Ella has celiac disease herself, and Florence and Alexis have close connections with other afflicted individuals. We hope not only to pursue our research from scientific curiosity, but also as a means of helping make life easier for those who have this condition. 

Florence Mumbi

We will be differentiating Caco-2 cells, a type of large intestinal cancer cell, to mimic small intestinal cell conditions. Following differentiation, we will be exposing plates of these cells to microbiomes from fecal slurry collected from both healthy individuals and celiac individuals. To compare these two groups, we will look for inflammation markers in the cells. Many studies have shown that celiac patients have different concentrations of bacteria in their gut microbiomes than healthy individuals. It is unclear whether or not the difference is caused by celiac gut conditions or contributes to the symptomology. This study aims to provide evidence that some celiac symptoms, namely inflammation, are caused by bacteria. We will do this by investigating whether or not the cells exposed to celiac gut microbiomes present with more inflammation or cell death than healthy individuals. 

If promising results are reached within the first part of our study, we will be introducing short chain fatty acids, specifically lactate, acetate, butyrate, and propionate to the celiac afflicted gut biomes to observe whether or not cell inflammation factors decrease. These acids are produced by specific bacteria that tend to be less common in the gut microbiomes celiac patients than healthy individuals. If there is a change in the inflammation levels after these substances are introduced, it suggests they play a part in the mechanism that causes celiac disease, which is still largely unknown. 

Ella Missey

Essentially, the general investigation of the gut microbiome in relation to celiac disease in addition to the more narrow research about the short chain fatty acids has a very specific goal: to inspire more research on the subject. There has been some research about the gut microbiomes of celiac patients, but we have not been able to find any studies that look for evidence to support the gut microbiome as a potential cause or contributing factor to celiac disease. We hope that our research is helpful to other scientists that research celiac disease and how it works from a biochemical level. We look not only for results, but to encourage others to investigate celiac disease and someday make things better for those that have it. 

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