The MCB Graduate Student Association (GSA), known as the MCBees, inaugurated a new outreach event, “Science on Tap,” on Sunday, November 19, 2017. Zach Costliow (Degnan Lab) presented, “Homebrewed Vitamins: What B1 and B. thetaiotaomicron are doing in your gut” at Riggs in Urbana.

Pitched to a lay audience, Costliow discussed the many factors that influence your gut’s microbiome, including your diet, medications, the way you were born and fed as a baby, and where you live, to name a few.

The Degnan Lab investigates how and why the gut microbiome changes. Costliow’s research focuses on how vitamin B1 impacts gut microbes. Vitamin B1, also known as thiamine, is essential to all living things, and when humans are deficient, it can lead to neurodegenerative disorders and other diseases.

“It was exciting to share my amazement at how human health is impacted by what our microbes make and do for us with all of the people that came out,” said Costliow.

Costliow explained to the packed audience how some microbes in our gut make thiamine while others may compete with us for the thiamine we get from our diet. Costliow studies an important group of gut microbes, Bacteroides, many of which have the ability to both make and import thiamine. By knowing when and how microbes make or import thiamine, Costliow hopes to find a way to use thiamine to make targeted changes to the gut microbiome. Ultimately, developing gut microbiome-altering therapies can combat or prevent diseases like colorectal cancer, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and obesity.

“Zach’s talk was fantastic. His presentation was informative, accessible, and engaging, and the audience asked some very insightful questions that led to a lively discussion. We are thrilled with the success of the first event and look forward to more,” said Jessica Kelliher (Kehl-Fie Lab) and current GSA president.

The MCB Graduate Student Association is sponsoring monthly "Science on Tap" talks at Riggs. The next event will be held on Sunday, December 17, at 4 PM, featuring Anna SantaMaria, a graduate student in Biochemistry (Burke Lab). Her talk, entitled “Itsy bitsy prosthetics to cure the incurable,” will highlight work recently published in the journal Science exploring how a small molecule isolated from tree bark can be used to treat iron transporter deficiencies.

Everyone is welcome.

You can keep up with all of the MCB Graduate Student Association outreach events on Facebook.