News & Events

Amanda Watson

Posted on April 20, 2016


Date - April 20, 2016
1:00 pm


Ph.D. Thesis Defense – 752
Title: “Studying Susceptibility for Type 2 Diabetes: A Pilot Study for Genetic Biomarkers and the Link to Gut Microbes”


Type 2 Diabetes is a prevalent disease and the number diagnosed increases each year. It is most notably associated with insulin resistance and obesity, but many studies have also indicated a genetic link to susceptibility. Further, recent studies have indicated a link between gut microbe activity and its influence on the development of Type 2 diabetes.

The Hispanic population, in particular, has one of the highest rates of Type 2 Diabetes, but is the least studied of all highly susceptible populations. Therefore, we set out to analyze this population for genetic biomarkers that could indicate their increased susceptibility to the disease. Using Principle Components Analysis (PCA) and statistical tools through the open-source program PLINK, we determined 26 single nucleotide polymorphism (SNPs) were significant biomarkers for susceptibility to Type 2 Diabetes in a Hispanic population. Further, we started developing a model system to study the activity of gut microbes by optimizing a whole cell fluorescent assay for enzymatic activity of beta-galactosidase in gram-positive Lactobacillus helveticus (ATCC 15009). We were able to achieve a linear dynamic range of over two orders of magnitude in an assay that can be completed in one day. This will set up the ability to do further work on the gut microbe activity and how it relates to diabetes development.