Most students and professors spend their summers outdoors, on vacation and enjoying their time away from school. Dr. Kimberly Lyle-Ippolito, professor of biology at Anderson University, however, spent her summer conducting research.
Lyle-Ippolito and her student assistant, senior biology major Julie Gosney, tested bacteria in mice who were fed varying diets, to see the different effects on weight gain.
The purpose of the research is to attempt to find the “magic bullet” for dieting, as Lyle-Ippolito puts it. If the bacteria in the intestines of mice could be changed, people may be able to lose weight easier. “The idea would be to intake live bacteria in order to help change the bacteria in your gut,” said Lyle-Ippolito.
Lyle-Ippolito bought standard white mice from a pet store and then bought genetically identical black mice, which are prone to obesity. She then divided them into two groups. One was put on a low-fat diet, where only 20 percent of the calories were from fat, while the other group was on a diet that included about 40 percent fat.
As food passes through the body, it only uses a certain amount of calories. The excess is passed on to the bacteria in the intestines and is used by them. How many calories the bacteria use is determined by how many are consumed. “The theory has been presented that if you eat a high-fat diet, the microbes in your gut change and then it’s almost impossible to lose weight, even if you quit the high-fat diet,” said Lyle-Ippolito.
The mice were put on their diets for eight weeks. During that time, Lyle-Ippolito and Gosney tested microbes by collecting waste from the mice and amplifying the DNA.
The white mice have finished their eight weeks on the high-fat diet and are now back on the low-fat diet to see if they will lose weight. The black mice still have a few weeks left on their diets before more testing can begin.
The research is continuing during the fall semester.
Lyle-Ippolito received support for the research through an Anderson University Faculty Development Grant. “Without this funding, I couldn’t have done anything,” said Lyle-Ippolito. “There’s just not a lot of money to do undergraduate research, and so the Faculty Development Grant was really the only way I could do this and the only way I could hire Julie to help me.”
Gosney spent between five and 10 hours in the lab each week, taking care of the mice, collecting their waste, and testing the bacteria. “Sometimes I had trouble getting the DNA to show up, so that was a little frustrating,” said Gosney.
Overall, she was excited and grateful for the opportunity to learn and do something she enjoyed. “I wanted to work under a professor on their own project, since I will be doing that a lot in graduate school,” said Gosney. “It’s good to know what it’s like to work under a researcher so that in the future, I can be more understanding of the people I oversee.”
— Alyssa Applegate is a senior from Dayton, Ohio, majoring in communication arts and minoring in Spanish. Applegate is an associate with Fifth Street Communications™, writing on behalf of the Anderson University Office of University Communications.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2011, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the eighth consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing, and theology.