Student at Cleveland's University School Conducts Research on Causes and Effects of Colon Inflammation

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Young Researcher Invited to Present Findings at the American Gastroenterological Association’s (AGA) Digestive Disease Week in Chicago; Teen Investigating How Fucose Affects the Permeability of Gut Mucosa Cells Against Bacteria

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University School student William Xin in the lab at Case Western Reserve University

We found that taking NK cells from normal mice and transplanting them into the deficient mice helps bring the colon back to normal.

University School junior William Xin has learned a lot about the value of patience when it comes to working in a medical research lab.

“Lab work requires quite a bit of repetitive work to get enough data for comprehensive results, he said. “We also need to wait for the mice to react to any chemicals we’ve administered, or during certain processes, like centrifuging.”

For the past year, William has been conducting research in the lab of Dr. Lan Zhou at Case Western Reserve University’s School of Medicine studying the causes and effects of inflammation in the colon.

Working with mice, William is investigating how a lack of fucose, a sugar molecule, affects the permeability of gut mucosa cells against gut bacteria. Gut bacteria can influence the body's immune response, and can lead to disfiguration and cancer.

“Past experiments have shown that a deficiency of fucose leads to a decrease of certain immune cells, called NK cells, and changes their function as well,” William said. “So far, we have found that taking these cells from normal mice and transplanting them into the deficient mice helps bring the colon back to normal. What this tells us is that NK cells are crucial in keeping the colon functioning, and the next step is to see how.”

On May 3, William will travel to Chicago to present his research at the American Gastroenterological Association’s (AGA) Digestive Disease Week, a leading conference in the digestive disease field. William was chosen by elected members of the AGA Institute Council to speak in recognition of his knowledge in the field and in the content directly related to a session.

“It’s exciting to be doing hands-on research,” William said. “I’ve learned so much about cell processes and systems while working in the lab. It can be challenging comprehending everything, but now I feel I have a good understanding of the research.”

Like other students at University School who are pursuing independent projects, William is acquiring the research skills necessary to become a good scientist.

In addition to medical research, William is interested in biodiesel production and will be pursuing an independent project on that topic next year.

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Fiona Reilly
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