2013 Grant Recipients

Your AGA Research Foundation Gifts Support …

imgYour AGA Research Foundation gifts support Anne E. Powell from Vanderbilt University, who received the 2013 AGA-Horizon Pharma Fellow Abstract Prize.

“As I transition into running my own independent academic laboratory, awards like this one from the AGA Research Foundation and Horizon Pharma facilitate critical interactions with colleagues at meetings like DDW®, and therefore further my knowledge.

Awards

R. Robert & Sally D. Funderburg Research Award in Gastric Cancer

imgYana Zavros
University of Cincinnati
Helicobacter pylori-epithelial cell interactions and the aberrant proliferation of the gastric epithelium

I am very honored to be selected as a Funderburg Research Scholar Award in Gastric Biology Related to Cancer recipient. I would like to sincerely thank the American Gastroenterological Association for this award. Chronic gastric inflammation, typically caused by Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), is the most consistent lesion leading to cancer. During a well-choreographed interaction between H. pylori and the host, the progression from chronic inflammation to cancer involves gastric epithelial changes with evidence of hyperproliferation, disruption of normal gland morphology and differentiation and the recruitment of inflammatory cells. Although H. pylori virulence factors are known to interfere with signaling pathways in gastric epithelial cells, the identity of these target cells is unknown. The interaction between bacteria, the gastrointestinal epithelium, and host defense responses are critical factors that determine the fate of bacterial infections and disease outcomes. CagA, a major H. pylori virulence factor, is secreted via the type IV secretion system into gastric epithelial cells where it plays a pivotal role in the etiology of H. pylori-associated diseases. Despite extensive evidence demonstrating the induction of H. pylori-induced gastric epithelial proliferation, in the stomach, the precise cellular location of H. pylori adhesion is unknown. Limitation in acquiring such knowledge has been attributed to the inability to evaluate molecular mechanisms of bacterial and host cell interactions in a cell culture system that can be extensively manipulated in a setting of a sustained gastric epithelial cell diversity and polarity. The overall objective of the proposal funded by the Funderburg Research Scholar Award is to identify the underlying mechanism by which H. pylori-host interactions trigger the disruption of epithelial cell differentiation and thus the cascade leading to cancer. The objective will be achieved via experiments using H. pylori-infected mouse 3-dimensional organoid gastric cultures and induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived human gastric organoids. The acquisition of such knowledge is the first step in a continuum of research required to achieve our long-term goal that is to understand the pathogenesis of gastric cancer.

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President's Research Scholar Award

imgCarol M. Aherne
University of Colorado
Epithelial Netrin-1 Controls CD4 Th1 Cell Trafficking to the Inflamed Intestine

I am pleased and delighted to be a recipient of the 2013 AGA Research Scholars Award. I would sincerely like to thank the AGA Research Foundation and in particular the donors, without their generous support this award would not be possible. As a postdoctoral fellow in the Mucosal Inflammation Program at the University of Colorado Denver I have committed myself to investigating the pathophysiology of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). IBD is a category of intestinal pathologies that are characterized by chronic and relapsing inflammation affecting an ever-increasing number of Americans. My postdoctoral investigations focused on the study of protective responses mediated by the intestinal epithelium during acute inflammation as experienced in IBD. Using in vitro and in vivo models I determined that the neuronal guidance molecule, netrin-1 was expressed in the murine and human intestinal epithelium and acted as an antiinflammatory signal during acute colitis. The chronic and persistent nature of the inflammation observed in IBD has prompted me to investigate the role of netrin-1 in murine models of chronic intestinal inflammation that more closely resemble human disease. The hope of my proposed studies is to delineate a novel pathway for potential therapeutic intervention in IBD. The AGA Research Scholars Award is invaluable to my success in these endeavors, providing me with protected time and financial support to pursue my independent research goals.

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Research Scholar Award

imgEdaire Cheng
UT Southwestern Medical Center
Eosinophilic Esophagitis Fibrogenesis

I am extremely honored to be a recipient of the Research Scholar Award. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the AGA Research Foundation and selection committee for their generous support and recognition in my work and research career. This award will be an invaluable asset to the start of my career as a young physician-scientist in the field of pediatric gastroenterology and eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) research. I have the great opportunity to pursue my research endeavors with protected time and resources. The chronic esophageal eosinophilia of EoE is associated with tissue remodeling characterized by a unique pattern of subepithelial fibrosis leading to painful mucosal tears, odynophagia, dysphagia, and strictures that severely affect the quality of life of patients. The pathogenesis of fibrosis in EoE is not understood, and no treatment has been shown to prevent tissue remodeling. My overall goal for this project is to understand the pathophysiological roles of periostin, Th2 cytokines, esophageal epithelial cells, and esophageal fibroblasts in the subepithelial fibrosis that complicates EoE, and to identify potential molecular targets to prevent tissue remodeling and complications in EoE. I plan to implement innovative methods such as immortalized esophageal cell lines, an integrative organotypic model, and translational studies involving human biopsy specimens. Not only will this award allow me to address specific research aims, but it will also foster continual growth in my research proficiency during my early years as a young investigator. My long-term endeavor is to be an independent investigator and a leader in the field of EoE. I am dedicated to understanding EoE pathogenesis and improving the quality of life of patients with EoE. I also aim to encourage other young physicians to the field of gastroenterology and participation in research. And I hope to promote the level of prestige and excellence that comes with this award for future recipients.

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imgBarham K. Abu Dayyeh
Mayo Clinic, Rochester
Gastric and Hypothalmic Functions in Human Satiation

I would like to thank the AGA Research Foundation for awarding me the 2013 AGA Research Scholars Award. It is a distinct honor to receive this award that will allow me to pursue my academic career in Gastroenterology. My research is focused on studying the interactions between the gastrointestinal tract and brain in the regulation of food intake and body weight. Obesity is a significant public health problem not only to our nation, where one in every three American adults is obese, but also worldwide. The gastrointestinal tract plays an important role in regulating hunger and food intake. Organs such as the stomach and small intestines interact closely with the brain to regulate these physiological processes. The messengers in these interactions include nerves that connect the stomach directly to appetite control regions in the brain and hormones that are produced by the stomach and small intestines and travel through the blood stream to the brain to regulate hunger and food intake. At Mayo, I am working as part of a multidisciplinary team that combines expertise of functional brain imaging radiologists, enteric neuroscientists, and interventional endoscopists to uniquely understand how different regions of the brain and gastrointestinal tract coordinate eating behaviors and satiation, and to determine how their dysfunction may contribute to reduced satiation and obesity. Furthermore, we are translating knowledge gained from the above experiments to develop effective and minimally invasive endoscopic treatments for obesity. Again, I would like to emphasize that without the generous support from the AGA Research Foundation, this work won’t be possible; especially, with the changes and economic challenges our nation’s health care system is facing.

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imgHamed Khalili
Massachusetts General Hospital
Oral contraceptive use in the etiopathogenesis of Crohn's Disease

It is an honor to be selected to receive the American Gastroenterological Association Research Scholar Award. I would like to thank the American Gastroenterology Association Research Foundation and foundation donors for their generous support of my work as I make the transition to an independent clinical investigator in the next two years.

In prior work, we have demonstrated that use of oral contraceptives (OC) is associated with an increased risk of developing Crohn’s Disease (CD). This finding, in agreement with several other prior studies, has convincingly established OC as an etiologic risk factor for CD. Nonetheless, data regarding potential biological mechanisms underlying associations with CD are lacking. In this proposal, we seek to fill this knowledge gap through a comprehensive examination of the complex interaction between OC, sex steroid biomarkers, genetic risk loci, and alterations in the intestinal microbial environment in the etiology of CD. The specific goals of this study are to 1) evaluate the interaction between OC and CD risk loci on incident CD and evaluate the relationship between prediagnostic plasma sex steroid hormones on risk of CD using two large, well-characterized cohorts which have provided detailed and updated lifestyle data for over 30 years; 2) evaluate the effect of OC use on gut microbial composition and mucosal inflammation within clinic-based patient cohorts. The overarching aim of the proposal is therefore to contribute to our understanding of the role of OC use in the etiopathogenesis of CD through a series of studies that bridge epidemiologic correlation with disease causation.

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imgRandy S. Longman
Weill Cornell Medical College
The Function and Regulation of Innate Lymphoid Cells in IBD

I am honored to receive the 2013 Research Scholar Award from the AGA Research Foundation. This award will provide me with support to develop experimental systems that will serve as the basis for my transition to an independent physician-scientist. The focus of my proposal is to characterize microbial regulation of an emerging class of lymphocytes called innate lymphoid cells (ILCs) that regulate intestinal inflammation in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The close proximity of ILCs to the epithelial surface and production of interleukin (IL)-22 makes them well positioned to promote mucosal healing—a crucial clinical endpoint in IBD; however, the function of human ILCs in IBD has not been well defined. My work aims to define the broader function of ILCs in IBD and the regulation of their function by other immune cells as well as intestinal microbiota. Using novel culture techniques, I will evaluate the transcriptional regulation of specific targets by the central transcription factor RORãt. These results will hopefully identify novel genes and pathways for diagnostic and therapeutic strategies in IBD. Moreover, I will evaluate the ability of other cells in the intestinal mucosa to regulate the activity of ILCs. Results from this work will hopefully provide insight into the design of therapies to regulate intestinal ILC activity in the clinical management of IBD.

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AGA-Emmet B. Keeffe Award in Translational or Clinical Research in Liver Disease

imgEmily R. Perito
University California San Francisco
Causes and Consequences of Metabolic Syndrome after Pediatric Liver Transplant

I am truly honored to be the recipient of the 2013 Emmet B. Keeffe Award, and for the opportunity to carry on the legacy of Dr. Keeffe as a hepatologist and clinical researcher.

The Keeffe Award will allow me to dedicate time to my clinical research project, “Causes and consequences of metabolic syndrome after liver transplant.” In previous research, we found that obesity is remarkably common after pediatric liver transplant. In adults after liver transplant, the metabolic syndrome and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) that accompany obesity are major causes of morbidity. The research supported by this Keeffe Award will be the first to systematically study post-transplant metabolic syndrome and NAFLD in pediatric liver transplant recipients. This study will facilitate development of evidence-based screening and management strategies aimed at reducing obesity, metabolic syndrome, and NAFLD in our population.

I will complete my Pediatric Transplant Hepatology fellowship in June 2013. In July 2013, I will join UCSF as junior faculty. My long-term goal is to become an independent clinical researcher focused on optimizing long-term outcomes in pediatric liver transplant recipients. Developing research questions, designing projects to address them, and analyzing data to find answers has been satisfying and exciting work for me. The Keeffe Award will allow to me continue this investigation and my development as a pediatric hepatologist and researcher.

AGA gratefully acknowledges support of this award by Vertex Pharmaceuticals and the friends and family of Emmet Keeffe.

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June & Donald O. Castell, MD Esophageal Clinical Research Award

imgKerry B. Dunbar
Dallas VA Medical Center
The Role of Esophageal Cytokines and Inflammation in GERD-Related Motility Abnormalities

I am honored to receive the 2013 AGA June and Donald O. Castell, MD Esophageal Clinical Research Award from the AGA Foundation. I would like to thank the AGA Research Foundation for their interest in my work and the foundation donors for their generosity.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease is very common and esophageal inflammation leads to production of cytokines in the esophageal mucosa. Abnormal esophageal motility is frequently seen in patients with GERD, and the cause of these motility changes is unclear. Our study will investigate the role of esophageal mucosal cytokines on motility changes and inflammation in the esophagus of patients who develop erosive esophagitis. By studying the relationship of esophageal inflammation, cytokines, and motility changes, we hope to gain further insight into whether motility abnormalities associated with GERD are a primary or secondary phenomena and potentially identify further targets for treatment.

I am truly grateful for receiving the Castell Esophageal Clinical Research Award, which will provide protected time and funding for research supplies, and be a great benefit to my career as a clinical researcher.

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AGA-Caroline Craig and Damian Augustyn Award in Digestive Cancer

imgAndrew D. Rhim
University of Pennsylvania
Role of Zeb1 in pancreas development, regeneration, and cancer progression

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the AGA and the Foundation for honoring me with this generous award.

As a medical student, I was deeply affected when I took care of a patient with pancreatic cancer. I saw how quickly that patient died after we made the diagnosis. I was even more struck by the fact his swift demise due to metastatic disease was not the exception but rather the sad rule of pancreatic cancer. It was at that point in time when I decided to focus my career on this disease.

At the University of Pennsylvania, I have initiated a research program studying the molecular and cellular events that occur during cancer progression. To this end, I established a novel genetically engineered mouse model of pancreatic cancer that allows us to identify and study single metastasizing cells. This model now allows us to probe deeply into the biology of metastatic disease, to better understand what is required for this deadly process, and, hopefully, to identify novel drug targets that may arrest metastatic disease before it starts.

The Augustyn award will allow me to continue my promising studies, focusing on a candidate gene that may be intricately involved in metastasis. The timing of this award could not be better. Recent budget cuts to biomedical research funding have forced many investigators to curtail research projects, thereby retarding important progress. As an early career scientist, I am particularly susceptible to these economics, despite our recent scientific success. This award will ensure that my development as a contributing member to the digestive disease and cancer research fields will continue unabated and that our research into a particularly lethal disease will move forward.

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AGA-Elsevier Pilot Research Award

imgAlan C. Mullen
Massachusetts General Hospital
Identification of long non-coding RNA induced by TGF-beta signaling in hepatic stellate cells

It is a great honor to receive the 2013 AGA Elsevier Pilot Award. End stage liver disease affects over half a million Americans and leads to the death of many of our patients each year. We understand that liver fibrosis is the end result of many different forms of liver disease, yet there remain no effective treatments to prevent the progression of fibrosis. Hepatic stellate cells are the primary cells responsible for hepatic fibrosis through a process driven by the signaling molecule TGF-beta. My research focuses on understanding how TGF-beta signaling regulates transcription of coding and noncoding RNAs. Long noncoding RNAs are RNAs that are not translated into protein and have biological activity as RNA. These RNAs have been shown to affect development and disease, and their expression tends to be cell-type-specific. This generous grant will provide us with the support necessary to define the long noncoding RNAs that are induced in activated hepatic stellate cells and bring us closer to our long-term goal of identifying cell-type-specific long noncoding RNAs that can be targeted to inhibit fibrosis.

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imgMichael Y. Choi
Massachusetts General Hospital
Function of microRNA-344 in Endoderm Specification

I would like to thank the AGA for supporting my research during my early academic career. As a junior faculty member, exploring this new area of investigation would be simply impossible without the financial support of the AGA Elsevier Pilot Research Award. The Award will enable me to cultivate a productive and independent investigative career in the fields of microRNA and stem cell biology. Specifically, the Award will allow me to protect a portion of my time for investigation, to hire a qualified research associate, and to purchase necessary laboratory supplies for this research. For the past several years, the level of federal research funding has not kept up with the exploding growth of biomedical research. With governmental funding source tight, private and foundational research support are more important than ever. With the help of the AGA Elsevier Pilot Research Award, I will be able to acquire the knowledge, skills, and experience needed to become a truly independent physician-scientist. The results from my proposal should enhance molecular understanding of endoderm induction. Over the long term, I hope to advance the field of stem cell biology, always with an eye toward how results and technologies could be exploited for clinical application in gastroenterology. Again, thank you, and I appreciate your generosity.

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imgAmir Zarrinpar
University of California, San Diego
Temporally Restricted Feeding and the FXRα Signaling Pathway

I am truly honored to receive the 2013 AGA Elsevier Pilot Research Grant. I would like to thank the selection committee for their recognition of my work and to the AGA Research Foundation who have generously funded this award. This award will help me develop my career as a physician scientist and provide critical support during my transition from a fellow to a junior faculty member. It will also make it possible for me to perform critical experiments that will be used for future career development awards.

My proposal, “Temporally Restricted Feeding and the FXRα Signaling Pathway,” focuses on the gut's role in obesity, metabolism, and liver disease. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), mainly caused by obesity, are the most common form of liver disease in the developed world. Maintaining natural feeding rhythms with temporally restricted feeding (TRF) prevents diet induced obesity and its associated metabolic disorders including NAFLD/NASH. What is remarkable is that it does so without altering the diet or amount of nutritional intake, but by preserving circadian expression of hepatic clock genes and metabolic regulators. The mechanism by which TRF entrains clock genes and metabolic regulators is poorly understood, but there is evidence that it could be mediated through bile acid signaling from the gut to the liver, particularly through the farnesoid X receptor (FXRα). This nuclear hormone receptor, which is located in the gut and the liver, is activated by bile acids and robustly modulates lipid/triglyceride and glucose metabolism in hepatocytes. Our primary hypothesis is that bile acid signaling through the FXRα cellular pathways is necessary for the effects of TRF. If this is true, the benefits of TRF can be induced with pharmaceutical agents that modulate bile acid signaling, and provide much needed therapeutic targets for the treatment of NAFLD/NASH.

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AGA-Elsevier Gut Microbiome Pilot Research Award

imgAndrew T. Chan
Massachusetts General Hospital
Linking Diet and Lifestyle with the Gut Microbiome

As a gastroenterologist and trained epidemiologist, my research focus is on diet and lifestyle factors in relation to the etiopathogenesis of digestive diseases, including colorectal cancer (CRC) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Over the last decade, I have been a principal investigator in long-running population-based cohorts in which we have collected prospective diet, lifestyle, genetic, and biomarker data to establish an unprecedented resource for the study of CRC and IBD. Recently, there has been an explosion of data supporting the critical role that gut bacteria play in the development of CRC and IBD. However, how specific bacteria or the byproducts of their metabolism are associated with disease is not yet well-understood. Specific dietary components alter the composition and function of gut bacteria, and gut bacteria in turn ferment and metabolize dietary factors. Thus, further studies, particularly relating both short-term and long-term diet, to the gut microbiome are needed. With the support of this AGA-Elsevier Pilot Award, we will conduct a pilot investigation of the impact of diet on gut microbiota within our prospective cohorts. We will apply a cutting edge microbial profiling and computational analysis pipeline to multiple gut microbiome samples to focus on the influence of diet on specific candidate organisms, genes, and pathways associated with digestive diseases. We anticipate that the results of this pilot study will lead to several additional follow-up studies that will form the basis of more substantial grant applications. These include 1) follow-up studies of specific candidate bacteria, genes, and pathways in mouse models to further understand specific disease causative mechanisms; 2) more extensive sequencing of microbiome samples from this cohort to relate other dietary and lifestyle factors with gut bacteria; 3) larger scale collections of microbiome samples from our cohorts as the basis for long-term prospective studies linking diet, lifestyle, and gut bacteria with the development of chronic disease.

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AGA-Takeda Research Scholar Award in Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

imgSachin B. Wani
University of Colorado
Determining recurrence and surveillance Intervals after radiofrequency ablation of Barrett's Esophagus

 

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AGA-Horizon Pharma Fellow Abstract Prize

imgJana G. Al Hashash
University of Pittsburgh
Nuclear nano-morphology markers from rectal tissue preduct colonic dysplasia/neoplasia in ulcerative colitis patients

I am truly honored to be selected as a recipient of the 2013 American Gastroenterological Association Horizon Pharma Fellow Abstract Prize. I would like to thank the American Gastroenterology Association Research Foundation and the donors for their generous support of my work. My research abstract entitled "Nuclear nano-morphology markers from rectal tissue predict colonic dysplasia/neoplasia in ulcerative colitis patients" aims to evaluate whether Spatial-domain Low-coherence Quantitative Phase Microscopy derived nuclear nano-morphology markers from flat normal appearing rectal mucosa can detect remote colonic dysplasia/neoplasia in ulcerative colitis patients. Patients with ulcerative colitis are at an increased risk for the development of colorectal cancer. Current guidelines recommend frequent surveillance colonoscopy with random biopsies. This approach is invasive and is a suboptimal technique for detecting all dysplasia. Less invasive surveillance measures that would stratify patients based on risk of developing dysplasia/cancer are needed. We hypothesized, based on the premise of cancer field effect, that markers from rectal biopsies can predict the presence of dysplastic/neoplastic lesions in the colon. We prospectively recruited ulcerative colitis patients who were scheduled for a surveillance colonoscopy and obtained an additional 2 rectal biopsies from uninvolved rectal mucosa (at time of colonoscopy) for nuclear nano-morphology analysis. Our results showed that nuclear nano-morphology markers from non-dysplastic rectal tissue identify remote colonic dysplasia in UC patients. This technology is unaffected by the presence of inflammation and stratifies patients into low versus high risk for developing dysplasia/cancer. This approach could enhance the efficiency of dysplasia surveillance in UC patients and ongoing study is underway to validate these findings. As a consequence of the support of the AGA, I was able to attend the DDW to share my work through a lecture presentation. Presenting at the DDW was an excellent opportunity for me to interact with experts in the field and form collaborations with other centers of excellence from around the world. I hope to continue working on developing a non-invasive highly sensitive technique that will allow for the accurate detection of dysplasia/cancer in the colon. I would also like to thank my mentors, Dr Miguel Regueiro, Dr Yang Liu, and Dr Randall Brand from the University of Pittsburgh for their ongoing support to my work.

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imgJames D. Canavan
Kings College London
In vitro generated regulatory T cells from Crohn’s disease patients'
blood home to inflamed human small bowel in vivo.

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imgAnne E. Powell
Vanderbilt University
Applying Novel Imaging and Therapy to a New Mouse Model of Colon Cancer

It was an honor to be able to present my work “Applying Imaging and Therapy to a New Mouse Model of Colon Cancer” at DDW 2013 and I would like to especially thank the AGA Research Foundation and Horizon Pharma for honoring me with the 2013 AGA-Horizon Pharma Fellow Abstract Award for this work. Colon cancer is a complex disease for which few animals models exist, that allow us to examine the breadth and depth of disease progression. It is thought that stem cells may be crucial initiators of colon cancer and my research focuses on the role stem cells play in colon tumor initiation and progression, as well as in general intestinal homeostasis and disease repair. In the last 5–10 years, the intestinal stem cell field has seen many significant advances, however there are many things still unknown, and much may be gained from examining new animal models of colon cancer initiated by stem cells; I appreciate this award for recognizing my work in this area.

My ultimate goal is to be able to translate what we learn from examining intestinal stem cells in mouse modeling to our understanding of human intestinal homeostasis and/or disease states (eg. IBD, UC, colorectal cancer, etc.). As I transition into running my own independent academic laboratory, awards like this one from the AGA Research Foundation and Horizon Pharma facilitate critical interactions with colleagues at meetings like DDW, and therefore further my knowledge. In addition to the AGA Research Foundation and Horizon Pharma, I would like to thank my mentor Robert J. Coffey Jr., MD, as well as our many collaborators at Vanderbilt University Medical Center for their critical input into my research.

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AGA-Horizon Pharma Student Abstract Prize

imgCaitlyn W. Barrett
Vanderbilt University
Kaiso modifies MTG16-dependent tumor suppression in a murine model of colitis-associated cancer

I am honored and very grateful to have received the AGA-Horizon Pharma student abstract prize, generously given by the American Gastrointestinal Association and Horizon. This prize enabled me to attend DDW in Orlando, Florida this year and insured that I would have an opportunity to share my research on the role of Kaiso in modification of an MTG16-dependent tumor suppression role in the AOM/DSS model of colitis-associated carcinoma. My ability to share my research in this forum enabled me to gain critical insights into potential mechanisms for the roles of both MTG16 and Kaiso in CAC and interact with researchers with expertise in my model system. Furthermore, the opportunity to attend the myriad of high-impact presentations in the field of gastroenterology afforded me the opportunity to increase my knowledge base and discover innovative ways to answer the questions posed by my research. The validation of my work as well as the exceptional academic growth opportunities offered by this prize are both greatly appreciated. Because of this award, I have become a better scientist and will carry the experiences and lessons learned into my future career.

Please let me know if you need anything else from me and thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to thank the AGA and Horizon for this prize.

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imgNavya Bezawada
University of Aberdeen
Urinary prostaglandin metabolites (PGE-M) are associated with risk of
colorectal adenomas and chemopreventive response to anti-inflammatory drugs

I am extremely grateful to the AGA Foundation for awarding my abstract with a Horizon Pharma Student Abstract Prize. It is a great honour that our research has been recognized in this way. I would also like to thank my colleagues and my mentor, Dr Andrew Chan, at Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School, where I carried out this research project as part of a summer internship.

The experience of attending and giving an oral presentation at Digestive Disease Week 2013 was incredible. It was daunting and challenging at times, but very exciting. I felt very privileged to be given the opportunity of listening to and interacting with eminent researchers in the field. It was a fantastic learning experience that will remain as one of the highlights of my undergraduate medical training. DDW has most definitely inspired me to pursue research in my medical career and has strengthened my interest in the field of Gastroenterology.

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imgAlexander R. Cohen
Newton South High School
Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) regulates liver development and protects from acetaminophen (APAP)-induced liver injury in Zebrafish

My ultimate goal is to pursue a scientific career that allows me to apply this knowledge to solving problems affecting human health. Last summer, I had the good fortune to work in the laboratory of Dr. Wolfram Goessling in Genetics Division at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School with the support of a 2012 AGA-Broad Student Research Fellowship Award. I had the opportunity to work with zebrafish as a model system to study the effects of the gasotransmitter H2S on liver development and the response to acetaminophen-induced liver injury. I am fascinated with the potential of this model to contribute to our understanding of liver growth and regeneration and am particularly captivated by its relevance to human disease. My research led to an abstract presentation at DDW meeting in Orlando, for which I was awarded an AGA-Horizon Pharma Student Abstract Prize. My research this summer is aimed at extending my prior work to better understand the mechanisms and implications of my findings. With the support of a 2013 AGA-Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation Student Research Fellowship Award, I look forward to another exciting summer of research in digestive and liver diseases.

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imgBoyko T. Kabakchiev
University of Toronto
Associations Between Host Transcription and the Intestinal Microbiome

I would like to express my gratitude to the AGA for selecting me as a 2013 recipient of the AGA-Horizon Pharma Student Abstract Prize. My graduate work in Dr. Mark Silverberg's laboratory was centered around the analysis of the human transcriptome in various contexts of inflammatory bowel disease. Attending DDW 2013 was a fantastic opportunity for me to present my work, familiarize myself first-hand with ground-breaking research, and network with brilliant scientists and clinicians. I am looking forward to participating in future conferences and I would like to acknowledge the institute for organizing such outstanding events.

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imgRinho Kim
University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine
The Role of 5-hydroxymethylcytosine and TET proteins in the Differentiation of the Intestinal Epithelium

It is a great honor to be selected for a recipient of the 2013 AGA-Horizon Pharma Student Abstract Prize. I would like to thank both organization and sponsor for their generous support. I was very excited to find out that my abstract had been selected for a lecture presentation at 2013 DDW. As a Ph.D. student in Dr. Klaus Kaestner’s lab at the University of Pennsylvania, I have been working on epigenetic dynamics in intestinal epithelial differentiation for last two years. It was wonderful chance to share my research with many GI researchers and expand my knowledge of GI biology and diseases. Moreover, I was thrilled when I accepted this award at the AGA Research Recognition Celebration. It has given me much joy and encouragement to pursue my research in the field of GI tract. Once again, I really appreciate the support of AGA and Horizon Pharma.

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imgRaaj S. Mehta
Harvard Medical School
Circulating macrophage inhibitory cytokine-1 (MIC-1) is associated with risk of colorectal cancer

It is with great pride and privilege that I accept a 2013 AGA-Horizon Pharma Student Abstract Prize. As an aspiring physician-investigator in gastroenterology, I appreciated the opportunity to present our work on an international stage, and would have not been able to travel to the conference without support from this grant. Since attending DDW, I've been inspired to continue work in public health and gastroenterology, and hope to learn and study more about markers of inflammation and colonic disease. Finally, I would like to acknowledge my mentor, Dr. Andrew Chan, for his tireless support and guidance throughout this project.

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imgCarli J. Smith
University of California, San Diego
Probiotics can normalize the gut-brain axis in immunodeficient mice

I am truly honored to be a recipient of the AGA-Horizon Pharma Student Abstract Prize. This award provided me with the incredible opportunity to present my research at Digestive Disease Week 2013. Attending this conference allowed me to exchange ideas with experts in my area of interest and to expand my knowledge of the innovative research that is taking place in the field of gastroenterology. I am grateful to AGA and Horizon Pharma for their support and for this chance to further my career as a researcher.

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imgYan Sun
Texas Tech University Health Science Center
Spinal Cord Electrical Stimulation Improved Gastric Hypersensitivity in Rodent Models of Hyperalgesia

I am truly honored to receive the 2013 AGA-Horizon Pharma Student Abstract Prize, and would like to thank both organizations for sponsoring this award. This award confirmed the importance of my research which involves effects of electrical stimulation, including electroacupuncture, gastric electrical stimulation and spinal stimulation, on visceral hypersensitivity in functional GI disease. Also, this award assisted me to present and discuss my research with a wide range of audience in the field and learned about the innovative work from all over the world. Furthermore, this award was great stimulus to push forward my research as well as better understand the field. Again, I am very grateful for this tremendous opportunity offered by the AGA-Horizon Pharma organizations.

Finally, I want to thank Dr. Jiande Chen, who helped for the project design and abstract writing. Also, I want to thank Dr. Richard McCallum, who encouraging and supporting me to continue my research during the residency training.

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imgDaniel Talmasov
Stony Brook University
Krüppel-like factor 4 is a radio-protective factor of the intestine following γ radiation-induced gut injury in mice

The molecular mechanisms underlying the body's response to ionizing radiation are a consistent interest of mine. This work is important, both because it has direct implications for patients exposed to radiation through cancer treatment or diagnostic imaging, and because radiation can be used as a basic investigative tool, in studying those programs that control the fates of tissues - the balance of proliferation, growth arrest, differentiation, and cell death. This AGA-Horizon Pharma Student Abstract Prize has been invaluable, as it made it possible for me to travel to Orlando and communicate my results through a lecture presentation at DDW 2013. I am most grateful for the support I've received in pursuing my research, and I am excited to continue asking questions throughout my career.

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imgEric J. Vargas
Pennsylvania State College of Medicine
Silent Crohn’s disease: Elevated C reactive protein in asymptomatic patients and risk of subsequent hospitalization

 

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imgRichard von Furstenberg
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Side population analysis of mouse jejunal epithelium reveals sub-groups with active and quiescent intestinal stem cell phenotypes

 

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AGA-Moti L. and Kamla Rustgi International Travel Award

imgSena S. Kuyumcu
University Hospital Zurich
Weight Gain in Anorexia Nervosa Patients is associated with Normalization of Gastric Contractile Activity and Visceral Sensation but does not impact on Emptying Rate and Dyspeptic Symptoms

I feel very honored to have been awarded the Morti L. and Kamla Rustgi International Travel Award and I would like to thank the AGA Research Foundation for their kind support. The award enabled me to travel to the DDW in Orlando 2013 and to present three abstracts, two of which were awarded as “distinguished poster”.

My research focuses on gastrointestinal physiology and here especially on motility and possible changes due to differences related to body weight, the ingested test meal or due to discrepancies in the applied measurement technique. The award was given to me for my research on gastrointestinal motility in patients with anorexia nervosa that was investigated by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This technique allows a non-invasive measurement of gastric contractile activity that was shown to increase with weight gain in this patient group. In a study additionally including obese subjects that was also presented at DDW 2013, MRI-measured gastric emptying was shown to have a significant association to BMI over a range of 12 to 42 kg/m2.

I am also working on the MRI-based validation of breath test measured gastric emptying. At DDW 2013, I therefore presented a study comparing gastric emptying of enteral nutritions differing mainly in protein composition. While the MRI did not show differences in gastric half emptying time, the breath test surprisingly did. This work was also honored as a “distinguished poster”.

Once again, I would like to thank the AGA Research Foundation for their support to present my work and to discuss it with leading international experts.

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imgJan Däbritz
Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne
Fecal S100A12: Identifying intestinal distress in very low birth weight infants

I am honored to be selected as a recipient of the 2013 Morti L. and Kamla Rustgi International Travel Award for the fourth time and I would like to thank the AGA Research Foundation for their support.

My research at the University Children’s Hospital Münster in Germany and at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Australia focusses on novel ways in which the course of Crohn’s disease can be altered by specific modulation of the monocyte compartment and the innate immune response. My current laboratory research also focuses on novel roles for myeloid derived suppressor cells in mouse genetic and experimental models of colitis. My current clinical research endeavors involve the collection of serum and stool samples from patients with inflammatory intestinal disease allowing further investigation into the utility of biomarkers in early diagnosis of disease and prediction of relapses.

My work was generously supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG), the Broad Medical Research Program (BMRP), the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA), and the Medical Faculty of the University Münster. Again, I would like to acknowledge my sincere appreciation to the AGA Research Foundation.

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AGA Investing in the Future Student Research Fellowship

imgOluwapese M. Akinbobola
Ohio University

It is a great honor for me to be one of the 2013 AGA IITF Fellowship recipients. I am particularly interested in research because it is the foundation of medicine and is the reason that medicine is such an amazing field today. As a medical student, it was somewhat disconcerting to be told during orientation that half of what we will learn will be pretty much useless in ten years; however, the reason for this is that the human body is very complex and not yet fully understood. As such, much more research needs to be done. As technology advances, we are able to improve upon old beliefs, disproving some and making others more concrete. Research provides a better understanding of the disease process. The technologies and innovations used today are absolutely mind-blowing as they make it possible not only to understand body function and disease etiology but also how to remedy many physiological breakdowns. Because of research many diagnoses that would have been considered completely debilitating or death sentences in the past are now manageable conditions. Through this fellowship, I will have the privilege of working with Eugene B. Chang, MD at the University of Chicago. It is my expectation that through this program I will learn more about the field of gastroenterology, the progression of digestive diseases, and the biomarkers that may predict this development. Hopefully my work will help, even if only in a small way, advance the field of gastroenterology and the prevention and treatment of digestive diseases.

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imgJoseph Acquaye
Meharry Medical College

I am honored to have been selected for the 2013 Investing in the Future Student Research Fellowship. As a future physician I feel that this experience will be a very beneficial addition to my medical education. In medical education, much of the initial focus is concerned with understanding the theory behind disease and illness and applying this theory in a clinical setting. I believe however, that it is equally as important to learn about how to apply this knowledge in a research setting. Modern medicine is very dynamic and driven by research. As a result, the ability to conduct, interpret and apply this research is increasingly required by physicians in this modern medical landscape. I look forward to this rese arch opportunity as I know it will help me developed the aforementioned skills and serve as an excellent introduction to biomedical and clinical research.

This summer I will be conducting research examining the role of keratin-19 positive stem cells in gastric tumorigenesis. I will be working in Dr. Tim Wang’s lab under the supervision of Dr. Samuel Asfaha. I have always been intrigued by the biochemical mechanisms underlying tumorigenesis—particularly in the GI tract. This experience will allow me to gain a more intimate understanding of these mechanisms and understand the methodology by which these mechanisms are elucidated. I would like the thank the American Gastroenterological Association for selecting me for this fellowship and I will be sure to take full advantage of this opportunity.

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imgFelipe Ayala
Southern Illinois University

With this award, I plan to contribute extensively to the field of gastroenterology through my enthusiasm and motivation to learn. The knowledge that I will attain from this course will help me deepen my understanding of the human body so that I will be prepared for when I enter medical school. This intellectual challenge will help me grow into a more mature and well-rounded student. Moreover, through my participation at Stanford School of Medicine’s gastroenterological research, I will be able to network with individuals who are passionate about their research. I am grateful that I was given the opportunity to participate in this research project. My dedication and cooperation for this research project will also help me develop the skills I need so that I can be able to conduct my own projects when I become a physician.

Dr. Habtezion’s research blends gastroenterology and immunology, which are subjects that I want to focus on. Through this award, I hope to be able to gain the knowledge necessary so that I can be able to present my research in Chicago in order to inform others the importance of understanding gastroenterology and immunology. Also, I want to be able to present this research to my post-baccalaureate institution so that they can understand the importance of this research. I want to demonstrate my enthusiasm and passion for learning science and medicine.

Also, since I am participating in this program this year, I would also like to participate when I am a medical student. My goal is to be able to attend a research based medical school so that I may have opportunities to not only conduct my research within the United States, but to also travel out to different countries where I can be able to provide health care (e.g. Honduras, Ecuador, etc.). Once again, I am grate to the American Gastroenterological Association for providing me with this award.

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imgRafaella Kazaoka
University of Tennessee Knoxville

I am especially honored to have been selected to be a recipient of the prestigious AGA Student Research Fellowship Award. I am an international student from Brazil studying abroad at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. In my home country, I was heavily committed with research in the field of biochemistry for more than 2 years. This experience inspired me to follow my studies towards pursuing a PhD. In this context, being a recipient of AGA IITF will enhance my resume and consequently, widen my chances of being accepted to the Graduate School. This summer, I expect to gain experience in the world of biomedical research and I hope to contribute to future advances in this field. I look forward to working with Dr. Davidson’s research group and I am eager to dedicate myself to hard work. Furthermore, I will be glad to transfer all this experience to my home country in order to contribute to its scientific development. In brief, AGA IITF is giving me the opportunity to immerse in a very unique research experience mentored by outstanding researchers. I would like to thank the AGA Research Foundation for their support and, Dr. Davidson for generously hosting me in his renowned laboratory.

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imgErmmet Lopez
University of Puerto Rico

I was very excited when I received the notice that I was selected to participate in the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) Research Foundation Investing in the Future Student Research Fellowship. To me this represent more than just a summer internship, it goes beyond that. To start, this is the first ever internship I have ever been accepted in and it will also be the first official research laboratory experience for me. I say official because I have been assisting in a Genetics laboratory in the University of Puerto Rico, but not as an official researcher. This opportunity to me means the opening of doors that, before receiving this notice, were closed. To me, being able to work in this research laboratory will let me experience what is like working in the environment of a research lab and I am very excited for this because I want to complete and M.D/Ph.D. in the future, but I still have not decided in which area to obtain the Ph.D. I was also very much excited to be paired with Dr. Ellen Li, who I think is a pioneer in the field of work she does. I really love the area of study of Microbiology and Dr. Li is one of the best there is in this field. To me, this means that I get to learn form a great mentor and maybe in the near by future decide on what to specialize in. In conclusion, the opportunity I have been given means the world for me and I can help me achieve my future goals and it can also help me decide on what to specialize when I graduate from my bachelor’s degree.

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imgChristian Mpoy
Hofstra University

I am truly humbled, grateful, and honored beyond words to be receiving the 2013 Investing in the Future Student Research Fellowship, and would like to thank the AGA Research Foundation for giving me this opportunity. I have always been interested in doing meaningful research, but have been uncertain on where to start. This award will allow me, for the first time, to engage in meaningful research in health with the help of a mentor physician. I am particularly thrilled to work with Dr. Marcia Cruz-Correa because I hope to learn more about the field of genetics/ epigenetics and its relationship to cancer development. I believe working one on one with Dr. Cruz will help me learn as well as hone analytical skills involved in the research process, which I intend to utilize in my future research endeavours.

Ultimately, I want to become a well-rounded physician that not only knows how to practice medicine, but one that could use and translate research into clinical practice and public health. I am interested in MD/PhD programs and this award is just the beginning of something great in my life. My goal is work in global health to improve the lives of the poor and most vulnerable of societies. Having good research skills, I believe, can give me a step up in accomplishing those goals. I am very grateful for this award and I will make the most of it.

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imgJulius Musenze
Ohio University

It is an honor to be selected as a recipient of the 2013 Investing in the Future Student Research Fellowship. I would like to thank the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) Research Foundation and its donors for investing so heavily in my curiosity and love for medicine.

My research this summer will focus on Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF) as an important cytokine that plays a key inflammatory role in Crohn’s Disease (CD). Under the mentorship of Dr. Jesus Rivera-Nieves, I will use a Crohn’s-like ileitis model called Murine TNFΔARE to analyze the levels of IFNg, IL-17 and Foxp3. This Murine TNFΔARE model contains AU-rich elements that are deleted from the 3’ untranslated region of the TNF-α gene. The resulting deletion leads to the overproduction of TNF-α.

This murine model will be used to better understand the frequency and development of T cells in Crohn’s Disease. Current knowledge suggests that In CD patients, Th17 and Th1 cells accumulate in the Ileum. We will compare the frequencies of Th1, Th17 and Treg in the ileum and colon of mice with Crohn’s-like ileitis (TNFΔARE) and colitis (IL-10 knock out).
The end goal will be to determine the site of development of these populations and describe whether there exists a correlation with the specific site of inflammation. This opportunity will introduce me to a whole new paradigm of medical research and lay down a personal foundation onto which future medical research will hopefully be based. This opportunity is as exciting as it is humbling.

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imgSophia Noguera
University of Wisconsin

As a Biomedical Science major, this award will help me get a jumpstart on what I hope to be doing in my future career. Science, and more specifically medical research, has always been my passions. Having the opportunity to do medical research as an undergrad and be mentored by Dr. Mitchell Cohen at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Center will give me hands on experience that I need, will help me to present my research in a scientific manner to a professional audience, and will open the doors for me to start writing abstracts for academic research papers. I am positive that this research experience will open for me the doors of a profession I want to devote myself to.

On a more personal level, also related to my professional interest, this opportunity will help me to explore a problem that I have been concerned about for the last three years. In 2010 I spent the summer working on an internship in Kenya where I organized summer health camps for adolescent girls from three villages of the southeast coast of Mombasa. I also worked in Kibera, the second largest slum in Africa, located in the capital city of Nairobi. In both rural and urban settings I met children infected with intestinal parasites that affected their daily lives in a very detrimental manner; children were lethargic and missed many days of school due to the intense diarrhea produced by the parasites, mostly Giardia lamblia. Working under the direction and mentorship of Dr. Cohen will give me the opportunity to learn about the vaccine he is developing for children’s diarrheal disease.

Upon the completion of my research, I am committed to submit the abstract for the presentation at the 2014 DDW in Chicago in May 3-8 2014. I will work diligently to be accepted for presentation in order to be eligible for the AGA-Horizon Pharma Student Abstract Prize.

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imgMariana Rivera
University of Georgia

I have learned in my research experiences that there is a steep learning curve in each research project but that this learning curve is lessened with familiarity and practice. Even in my short career as a research scientist, I have become more comfortable and at ease when presented with new situations and methodology. Although my research background is more focused in the field of ecology, I firmly believe all research shares the same basic principles: inquiry, critical thinking, and execution. I am thrilled that the AGA IITF Fellowship-Award will finally allow me to gain the experience in medically relevant research I have been seeking. Just as my previous experiences in research have helped me become a stronger researcher in the field of ecology, this award will help me become a stronger researcher in the field of medicine. I am confident that this award will augment my abilities as a scientist and help me become a more knowledgeable physician-scientist in the future.

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imgWhitney Williams
Davidson College

With the help of the AGA IITF Fellowship award, I will be able to dive into the type of research that I have always been the most interested in. While my current career goal is in the practice of medicine, I do not wish to spend my early academic career solely focused on this goal. Rather, I would like to do what I can to benefit the medical research community, as this may save more lives than I would ever save in everyday practice. Colorectal cancer is a disease that has affected my family directly. While early detection saved the life of my family member, I am very aware of the fact that other families are not so lucky. It would be quite an overstatement to assume that I will find the cure for cancer during my ten weeks at Baylor. However, just to assist in determining a small part of the answer to a better treatment for colorectal cancer would be an incredible feat for someone of my age and education background. I am still in awe that I possess such a stunning opportunity, and I plan to do all that I can to take advantage of it.

In addition to the exciting research I will get to partake in colorectal cancer, I will be financially capable of spending my summer doing what I love to do. Without the $5,000 stipend, I would not be able to afford the trip or the lodging provided by this copious award. This program stood out from so many others due to its consideration for financial ability. I personally thank you all for this opportunity, and I am eternally grateful.

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AGA-Eli & Edythe Broad Student Research Fellowship(s)

imgAlexander R. Cohen
Newton South High School
Hydrogen Sulfide-Mediated Regulation of Hepatic Growth and Regeneration

My ultimate goal is to pursue a scientific career that allows me to apply this knowledge to solving problems affecting human health. Last summer, I had the good fortune to work in the laboratory of Dr. Wolfram Goessling in Genetics Division at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School with the support of a 2012 AGA-Broad Student Research Fellowship Award. I had the opportunity to work with zebrafish as a model system to study the effects of the gasotransmitter H2S on liver development and the response to acetaminophen-induced liver injury. I am fascinated with the potential of this model to contribute to our understanding of liver growth and regeneration and am particularly captivated by its relevance to human disease. My research led to an abstract presentation at DDW meeting in Orlando, for which I was awarded an AGA-Horizon Pharma Student Abstract Prize. My research this summer is aimed at extending my prior work to better understand the mechanisms and implications of my findings. With the support of a 2013 AGA-Eli and Edy the Broad Foundation Student Research Fellowship Award, I look forward to another exciting summer of research in digestive and liver diseases.

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imgAyesha Godil
Granite Bay High School
Prevalence of irritable bowel syndrome in adolescent high school population in the United States

I am ever thankful to the American Gastroenterological Association for giving me the privilege to receive such a distinguished award as the AGA-Eli and Edythe Broad Student Research Fellowship. I am also very appreciative of my mentor Dr. Michael J. Lawson, clinical professor at University of California Davis Medical Center, who has an immense amount of experience with functional GI disorders for his guidance and support of my research initiative. Medicine has always been my passion and being selected for this fellowship will give me further opportunities in medical research. Over the past two summers, I have participated in gastroenterology-related research, writing abstracts for which I have given poster presentations at the American College of Gastroenterology 2011 and 2012 national meetings. One of my more recent projects titled “Economic Impact of Colonoscopy and Endoscopy Cancellations within Twenty-four Hours of the Scheduled Time on the Productivity of an Outpatient Endoscopy Center,” a clinical outcome study, will be presented as a poster at the Digestive Disease Week 2013 meeting. Under this fellowship award, I plan to study the “Prevalence of Irritable Bowel Syndrome in High School Students in the United States” to determine how predominant irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is in the adolescent population and to identify risk factors that are associated with IBS. IBS has a prevalence of 10-15% among adults in North America; however, data is limited among adolescents. Identifying this disease at a younger age will promote early intervention which may prove more beneficial. In the past, I have solely conducted retrospective studies. With the support of this award, however, I will have a tremendous opportunity to conduct an epidemiological cross-sectional study that will give me a strong foundation of a common digestive disorder that significantly impacts people of my own age group. Being able to make such a contribution to the medical field is an utmost honor. From this experience, I will be able to pursue future research and will be able to further enhance my contributions to this fascinating field of medicine.

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imgChimdi V. Obinero
Commack High School
ML263 regulation of KLF5 expression in CRC cells

I am very grateful for the unique opportunity that has been presented to me by being accepted for the Eli and Edythe Broad Student Research Fellowship. I did some research to find out about Eli and Edythe Broad to get an idea about these generous people who will have an important influence on my life. Eli and Edythe Broad exemplify the belief that anyone can reach their goals. This program is an extension of their hard work for young people. Their generosity in giving back to the community has supported programs that fund art, business, and science. I am proud to be the recipient of their support. Through traditional science courses (biology, chemistry, physics) as well as a science research course that I take at my high school, I have become totally immersed and inspired to do science research. I have dreamed of the possibility of going outside of my school to expand my hands-on science experiences. This award means that I will have the opportunity to work with trained medical professionals in gastroenterology and improve my abilities as a science researcher. I am thrilled that I will be working with Dr. Vincent Yang and his team at Stony Brook University over the summer. My time in the lab will provide me with crucial laboratory skills in biological research as well as training and experience with research design, practices and applications. This experience will open new doors in my scientific career and allow me to explore a chain of new topics that may spark my interest. In addition, this fellowship will allow me to develop a strong foundation for a career in medicine.

I would like to thank the AGA for their support and for selecting me for this honor. You have made it possible for me to further my integration into the science community by funding this program and encouraging the pursuit of knowledge in young people like me. I hope that one day I can meet Eli and Edythe Broad to thank them personally and to let them know that I am on my way to a future career in medical science.

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imgJordan M. Poles
Horace Greeley High School
The Induction of a Cytotoxic and Neutralizing GI Mucosal Immune Response Against HIV
Through Targeted Intranasal Vaccination

I am extremely thankful for the support provided to me by the AGA and the Broad foundation, and I am highly honored to be chosen for the receipt of this award. I am also grateful for my mentor, Dr. Saurabh Mehandru, who has given me the opportunity to work in his lab. The receipt of this award is incredibly significant in facilitating my academic, and research growth. I strongly feel that the AGA Broad Foundation Student Research Fellowship Award will provide me an amazing opportunity to perform my own research project, and explore new scientific ground under the close guidance of a great mentor, like Dr. Mehandru. This grant also represents a very special opportunity for me to delve into the deeper aspects of research, and further refine my scientific techniques and thinking. The significance of such an opportunity lies in the fact that next year, I will be matriculating into Rice University, where research opportunities abound. During my time at Rice, I hope to become even more deeply involved in scientific research, and I truly believe that the experience provided by this grant will give me a step up among my peers, and allow my research career to flourish. Ultimately, I hope that my work, and that of others will serve to expand our current scientific knowledge, and in doing so, improve the lives of others around the world. Each step we take in research brings us closer to solving humanity's great problems, and I hope to make contributions to science that will one day allow us to prevent the spread of devastating viruses such as HIV.

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imgNaryan L. Rustgi
Haverford School for Boys
PERK and cancer cell migration

I am very appreciative to the AGA for receiving this student fellowship. It is allowing me to work in the laboratory of Dr. J. Alan Diehl at the University of Pennsylvania, whose research is in the stress response as well as the cell cycle in cancer biology. I am investigating the role of PRK-like kinase (PERK) in the unfolded protein response and cancer cell proliferation and growth. I am using molecular biology techniques in my project. I enjoy working in Dr. Diehl's lab.

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imgPrateeti P. Sarker
Dulaney High School
Role of NHERF2 Phosphorylation in Interaction with its substrates and Brush Border NHE3Regulation

I am extremely honored to be one of the recipients of the 2013 AGA-Eli and Edythe Broad Student Research Fellowship. Working under Dr. Mark Donowitz at Johns Hopkins University has provided me with so much knowledge about research. I learned that research not only include laboratory procedures, but also includes reading scientific literature, interpreting data, and writing research plans. The experience I had at Hopkins will be able to help me achieve a more independent role in my future research endeavors, but the experience I had writing the application for this award will provide me the foundation to write my own research plans. I am grateful to Dr. Donowitz for guiding me through the entire research process. I am also thankful to my biotechnology teacher at Dulaney High School Ms. Maddox for encouraging me to pursue my goals in research. The opportunity I received with the 2013 AGA-Eli and Edythe Broad Student Research Fellowship has given me a head start in a career of scientific research.

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imgHenry N. Senkfor
Hawken School
Role of Interleukin-33 (IL-33) in Intestinal Epithelial Repair and Wound Healing during Acute DSS-Induced Colitis

I am thrilled to be selected as a recipient of the 2013 AGA-Eli and Edythe Broad Student Fellowship. This grant will allow me to further the connection between interleukin-33 and epithelial repair and wound healing which is the primary focus of my research. The ultimate goal of my research is to help find a cure for inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and Crohn’s Disease.

Based on my research this past summer, I learned several lessons. First, I experienced how much I enjoy the research process, in particular, my passion for medical research. I also experienced first hand how difficult and frustrating, yet rewarding, the research process can be. Even though some experiments yield no results, the possibility that the next small break-through in the research process can transform the experiment into a success really kept me focused and engaged on the long- term effort. The fact that this success can ultimately translate into a cure, which can help thousands of people, is truly exciting. In addition, this fellowship will allow me to continue to hone in on my ability to problem solve, ask critical questions and synthesize data into meaningful conclusions.

Thank you to the Broad Foundation and AGA for the fellowship. I am hoping to continue my studies in the digestive fields of medicine either as a practicing physician and/or as a researcher. I can’t wait to get back into the lab in a few weeks to fulfill my grant requirements and further my research. I find the medical research field rewarding, exciting, and full of possibility. Thank you again for giving me the opportunity to deepen my passion for research.

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imgJordan L. Widom
Ransom Everglades
Effect of TLR4 on host microbiota and colon inflammation

I am both honored and grateful to have received an AGA–Eli & Edith Broad Student Research Fellowship Award. I am also thankful to Dr. Maria Abreu for giving me the opportunity to work in her lab at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine this summer. I will be researching the effect of TLR4 on host microbiota and colon inflammation. This research allows me to fulfill a personal commitment I made when my sister was diagnosed with Crohn's disease. As I set my goals for higher learning, and look towards a potential future in research and medicine, I am excited to cultivate my desire to do research specifically relating to IBD. I am looking forward to this invaluable hands-on experience. Thank you again to the Foundation and to Dr. Abreu for this incredible honor and opportunity.

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AGA Student Research Fellowship Awards

imgAmeer O. Abutaleb
University of Maryland
Role of Post-Muscarinic p38 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase (p38 MAPK) Activation in Colon Cancer

I am humbled and honored to have received the AGA Student Research Fellowship Award. I anticipate that this will be the beginning of an academic career dedicated to the study of biological mechanisms that drive gastrointestinal disease. I’d like to cite a relevant quotation from Dr. Robert Weinberg’s “Hallmarks of Cancer” articles, which drove me to apply for this award: “…the introduction of mechanism-based targeted therapies to treat human cancers has been heralded as one of the fruits of three decades of remarkable progress of research into the mechanisms of cancer pathogenesis.” Using this approach I hope to ask important questions in gastrointestinal neoplasia that will drive our community towards new therapies for colorectal cancer.

I could not have asked for a better opportunity with this AGA Student Research Award. As a consequence of this award I will be able to work with Dr. Jean-Pierre Raufman in his laboratory and learn from his expertise. I hope to start by learning a skill which he mastered – asking appropriate scientific questions that drive productive experimental design and strong quality of research. It is our hope that applying this method to our particular pathway of interest will lead to exciting results and, eventually, to progress in cancer treatment and prevention. I am confident that in the short-term this generous award will support a valuable learning experience in my research education and, in the long-term, help me build a strong foundation for future digestive diseases-related research.

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imgSonya L. Anderson
Washington University
The Effects of Claudin Domains on Pore Openings and Anchoring in Tight Junctions

This award will allow me to contribute to the understanding of claudin protein research and help in the understanding of its effects on the tight junction. Besides exploring my interest in participating in research, this grant would allow me to expand the understanding of tight junction barriers and permeability. This research could ultimately help people suffering from Crohn’s disease or IBD. While I am not personally affected by IBD, I would like to be able to relieve pain and discomfort for others. As this is an interesting topic to me, I will have continued interest and hope to contribute throughout my lifetime to IBD research.

In relation to professional goals, I would like to be become a research scientist. My progress towards this goal will benefit from this grant. This would help in understanding more about the two forms of IBD, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, and how claudin proteins might both prevent and contribute to these diseases. This award will also contribute to my knowledge of basic techniques used in research and allow to apply these techniques in real time. This will both help me develop as a scientist and allow me some insight on what I might potentially research as a career.

In total, this grant would offer me a chance to further my experience in research that is interesting to me and help me see the research I will participate in the future. But this experience will also help me develop as a person. It will help me be more confident in presenting my results and be more confident in using the techniques I have learned. This opportunity would present a me a chance to further develop my perspective on a career in gastrointestinal research.

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imgReina Aoki
University of Pennsylvania
The role of histone modifications in intestinal differentiation

It is a great honor for me to have been chosen to receive the 2013 AGA Student Research Fellowship Award. I am tremendously thankful for the AGA Research Foundation for selecting me as a recipient. I am also truly grateful for my mentor, Dr. Klaus Kaestner, for his continuous support and guidance ever since I joined his lab. I am currently studying and conducting research as a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania and I am interested in elucidating the mechanism of homeostasis maintenance in digestive system. This award will certainly provide me the opportunity to further expand upon my current research. My hope is that the research I work on will ultimately expand the current knowledge in the field and be used as a therapeutic approach in the future. I strongly believe the AGA Student Research Fellowship Award will help me achieve this goal and allow me to pursuit my career goal as an independent researcher. Again, thank you to the AGA Research Foundation for this wonderful opportunity.

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imgAmy E. Bortvedt
Oregon State University
The insulin receptor in intestinal epithelial stem cells: a potential link between obesity and cancer

Thank you to the American Gastroenterology Association Research Foundation, for honoring me with this incredible opportunity. I feel privileged to be given the chance to further develop my research skills, while doing clinically relevant research. By analyzing the effects of the loss of the insulin receptor on small intestinal epithelial cells, I hope to hone my own research skills, while contributing to the scientific knowledge base in Dr. Lund’s laboratory. This research project will contribute to understanding the role of the insulin receptor in the intestine/colon, where its function is largely unknown. The results could impact the development of methods used to diagnose and treat colon cancer, particularly in obese and/or insulin resistant patients, where insulin receptor signaling may be impaired. As a biology major, I intend to pursue a career in scientific research in the future. This AGA fellowship provides me the unique opportunity to start developing my research skills, while being exposed to cutting-edge research. In addition to the bench skills I will obtain, I will also have the chance to interact with other students and faculty at UNC-Chapel Hill and begin learning how to read scientific literature. These experiences will directly contribute to my future success as a student and researcher. Thank you to the AGA for this opportunity!

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imgDaniel Y. Choi
University of Michigan Medical School
Manipulation of two putative NES in the hMSH3 MMR protein that may control translocation under
oxidative stress

I am honored and humbled to be a recipient of the 2013 AGA Student Research Fellowship Award. Thank for the opportunity to continue pursuing my love of research under this prestigious fellowship. This fellowship will further my goal of becoming a future physician whose lab work will inform clinical practice. By continuing research under Dr. Carethers at the University of Michigan this upcoming year, I hope to take away a newfound knowledge of current trends in gastroenterological research and hopefully be productive enough to have an abstract to present at next year’s DDW conference. I am also extremely appreciative of the financial support of this fellowship, as it becomes increasingly difficult to find time for employment as I progress through my medical studies. I am very grateful.

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imgClarissa P. Diniz
Juniata College
Loss of Epithelial IKKβ Alters the Esophageal Microenvironment

I am extremely honored to be selected for the 2013 AGA Student Research Fellowship Award. My ultimate goal is to become a physician-scientist conducting biomedical research in digestive and liver diseases, and this prestigious award will allow me to continue my development towards this goal. In the summer of 2012, I interned as a biomedical researcher in the laboratory of Dr. Jonathan Katz in the Center for Molecular Studies in Digestive and Liver Diseases at the University of Pennsylvania through the Undergraduate Student Scholars Program (USSP). The support provided by the 2013 AGA Student Research Fellowship Award will allow me to return to Dr. Katz’s laboratory in the summer of 2013 in order to expand my abilities as a biomedical researcher. I will have the opportunity to learn from the numerous conferences and seminars of the USSP and within the Center for Molecular Studies in Digestive and Liver Diseases and to enhance my preparation for medical school/graduate school programs. I look forward to continuing my work in delineating the role of epithelial IKKβ/NFκB signaling in the local esophageal microenvironment and in epithelial-stromal interactions in the esophagus. I am excited to start working with 3D organotypic cell culture in order to identify secreted factors responsible for changes in blood vessel integrity seen in our L2/Cre;IKKβL/L knockout mice. This invaluable research opportunity is made possible due to this generous AGA award, and I am tremendously appreciative for this award and this opportunity.

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imgHemraj B. Dodiya
Rush University Medical Center
Role of GI stress like constipation in an animal model of Parkinson's Disease

I am honored to receive the 2013 AGA Student Research Fellowship Award. This award will provide me an opportunity to grow as a Researcher and will help me to achieve my academic and professional goals. I would like to thank AGA foundation, my mentors Dr. Jeffrey H. Kordower and Dr. Ali Keshavarzian and also our PDGI research group collaborators at Rush University, Dr. Christopher Forsyth and Dr. Kathleen Shannon for all the exciting research opportunities. Our PDGI group focuses mainly on GUT-BRAIN axis research in Parkinson Disease (PD). Recently our group has shown the presence of α-synuclein aggregates in the colon of PD patients several years before an appearance of the first motor symptoms of PD suggesting that Lewy pathology might start in the ENS (Shannon KM et al, 2012). Also, our group has shown significant changes in the intestinal permeability of early PD patients compared to healthy controls (Forsyth CB et al, 2012).

I have been involved with Parkinson Disease research since last 5 years, focused on various gene therapy research studies. As a graduate student, my research studies focus on the GI issues in different animal models of PD. In particular, these research studies examine the associations between an earlier life GI distress like constipation and subsequent risk of PD.

Having privilege to be a recipient of AGA Student Research Fellowship Award has not only improved my resume but also my chances for future grant applications. I consider grant writing skill is a survival factor for my future academic career and writing an AGA student fellowship was a great experience for me. For this inspiration and motivation, I would like to thank the AGA foundation for selecting me as a recipient.

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imgMatthew D. Franz
University of Michigan
The role of stress induced CRH inhibition of mucosal NLRP6 inflammasome in the development of dysbiosis-associated intestinal inflammation

I am honored to be chosen as one of the recipients of the AGA Student Research Fellowship Award. With this award, I will be able to continue my research in immunology throughout the year. Not only will it allow me to aid in the future development and understanding of the gastroenterological tract and diseases, but it will better prepare me for any future endeavors I will undertake in the scientific community. I am only beginning to delve into the researching field, and this award will help me to obtain the fullest experience possible. With this award, I hope to be able to advance our research in the causation of inflammation and inflammasome-signaling molecules in a multitude of GI disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Through my research experience created by this opportunity, I will gain a greater appreciation for the field of scientific research. This will also allow me to share my unique ideas and pursue them. Although I have always been interested in the field of biochemical medicine, this award has strengthened my resolve and will aid me with whatever future I choose: medical school, graduate school, or both. Last, but not least, I would like to thank the AGA and all the members of Dr. John Kao's laboratory for this opportunity.

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imgAlka Kolhe
Columbia University
Mesenchymal stem cells in the gastrointestinal stem cell niche

I am honored to be a recipient of the 2013 AGA Student Research Fellowship Award and thankful to the AGA research foundation for selecting me for this award. I am thankful to Dr. Timothy C. Wang for giving me an opportunity to work in his research laboratory at Columbia University Medical Center and gain hands-on experience of various modern techniques used in today’s research. It is my ambition to become an academic researcher investigating gastrointestinal carcinomas and this award will give me an opportunity to pursue my interests in this area of research. This award will provide me with an opportunity to design and perform the experiments under the guidance of leading gastroenterologists and learn more about the gastrointestinal carcinomas. In addition, I will have a great opportunity to compile my work and present as well. I firmly believe that this project will improve my skills, expand my knowledge and will further my interest in this field.

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imgEmily E. Ortega
Drexel College of Medicine
A Look at Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition; Does EMT Confer Resistance or Sensitivity to Chemotherapy

The AGA Student Research Fellowship Award is going to be a powerful tool in molding my future as a research physician. This award will allow me to devote my summer to influential research, assisting our laboratory’s current investigations, and make an impact in our goal of finding better treatments for pancreatic cancer. I can continue with my interest in pancreatic cancer research, hopefully helping to move the field forward in understanding the disease and finding a faster means to diagnose and treat it. This award will allow me to have a project somewhat of my own, which will advance the development of my creativity and my medical analysis capabilities as a future researcher. Receiving this award will also better prepare me to apply for a PhD program in concordance with my medical schooling. It will prepare me to become an innovative investigator and thrive in a joint MD/PhD degree program. Most importantly, this award will reinforce my passion of helping others through medical research and development. The amount of knowledge and experience I expect to gain from spending a summer in Dr. Stanger’s laboratory is immense and will surely help to establish my career in cancer research.

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imgMichael Y. Liu
University of Wisconsin/Madison School of Medicine
Profiling the humoral immune response associated with hepatitis C virus infection and
response to therapy by massively parallel VDJ sequencing

I am honored to receive the AGA-Eli and Edythe Broad Student Research Fellowship. This award will greatly benefit my ongoing research in the field of gastroenterology and hepatology. Researching and creating new approaches to improving patient care has always been a passion of mine. Thus I feel that as a future physician, it is important to not only become a great clinician but also contribute to the medical profession through the discovery of new innovations. Therefore I am grateful that the AGA is giving me the opportunity to complete my research.

Genomic profiling has become an exciting field of medical research that will likely be incorporated into every clinic and hospital in the future and I believe that the results from my current research can form the basis for a better rational design of a HCV vaccine and aid in the design of anti-HCV antibodies that can control or prevent graft reinfections. This award will help me open the gateway for a chain of future studies that will provide increasing benefits to future hepatitis C patients worldwide.

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imgHenry E. Pratt
Bowdoin College
Investigation of the PDIP1-IFN alpha Signaling Pathway in HCV Treatment

I am honored to receive the AGA-Eli and Edythe Broad Student Research Fellowship. This award will greatly benefit my ongoing research in the field of gastroenterology and hepatology. Researching and creating new approaches to improving patient care has always been a passion of mine. Thus I feel that as a future physician, it is important to not only become a great clinician but also contribute to the medical profession through the discovery of new innovations. Therefore I am grateful that the AGA is giving me the opportunity to complete my research.

Genomic profiling has become an exciting field of medical research that will likely be incorporated into every clinic and hospital in the future and I believe that the results from my current research can form the basis for a better rational design of a HCV vaccine and aid in the design of anti-HCV antibodies that can control or prevent graft reinfections. This award will help me open the gateway for a chain of future studies that will provide increasing benefits to future hepatitis C patients worldwide.

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imgPaul K. Martin
University of Michigan
Characterization of a Putative hMSH3 Nuclear Localization Signal

The AGA Student Research Fellowship Award will enable me to participate in exciting colorectal cancer research as I continue my undergraduate education at the University of Michigan. The technical skills and research experience that I will attain from this position will set the foundation for a career in medicine and medical research. As a pre-medical undergraduate student, the classroom focus is primarily on the basic sciences and the “known”; it normally takes years before those facts can be applied to discovery research in the field of medicine. By engaging in this project now, I will be immersed into the field of medical research relatively early in my education and I will gain experience in the approach and excitement of doing original research. The experience will prepare me for future medical endeavors and stimulate even more personal enthusiasm toward this field.

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imgHyder Said
University of California, Los Angeles
The Effects of Lactate and Beta-Hydroxbutyrate on the Treatment of Acute Pancreatitis

Over the past four years, I have worked in a laboratory for three great physician scientists at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) Medical School. While working in these laboratories, I really wanted to keep an open mind to the different fields within medicine. I will be the first to admit that it was hectic, stressful, and definitely not easy, but something kept drawing me back into the research world. Maybe it was my thirst for knowledge; maybe it was my ego — I would not let up until I found answers; maybe it was an unspoken connection with the feeling of being the first to discover something, of being an innovator – something that we seem to lack so much in society now a days. I like to think that it was a mix of all three.

As a freshman, I have just recently started to dip my toes into the different fields and disciplines that my university, UCLA, provides, attempting to acclimate myself to my surroundings, to learn as much as possible in a myriad of fields. As a pre-med student, I have faced the trials and tribulations of the bell-curve, of competing against the thousands of students, all very capable, all vying for those few medical school positions. As a person in general, I have tried to take the initiative as much as possible, never letting opportunities pass me by, but this was always easier said than done. As a freshman, a pre-med, and a person in general, I am so thankful to have been afforded the opportunity to work at Yale University this summer for two outstanding clinicians, researchers, and teachers. I will be working on the pancreas, delving deeper into the GI, and actually applying the knowledge that I have learned in the classroom to new, progressive research. This was an opportunity that I could not pass up, and I am elated to be able to take one step closer to fulfilling my dreams of being both a great doctor and person.

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imgSean M. Scherer
Medical College of Wisconsin
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis in adults with cyclic vomiting syndrome (CVS)

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imgBryce F. Schutte
Mayo Clinic, Rochester
Cholangiocyte microRNA, let-7i, post transcriptional regulation of N-Ras signaling and proinflammatory molecules in response to microbial challenge

I am elated and honored to have been selected as a recipient of the 2013 AGA Student Research Fellowship Award. This award will grant me the privilege to research alongside Dr. LaRusso at Mayo Clinic, as we look at the regulation by let-7i, a cholangiocyte microRNA, on N-Ras signaling and proinflammatory molecules in response to microbial challenge. It is critical to learn the way that these two interact in their pathway because N-Ras is a proto-oncogene that becomes a cancer-causing oncogene when let-7i levels drop. As a sophomore at Luther College, this award will help me expound on my interest in the medical field in a way that many students don’t get the opportunity to experience during undergraduate work. This will also allow me to apply all of the knowledge I have learned in the classroom to real issues that are in front of our population. I also hope to get a true grip on my future endeavors of becoming a physician because I know that this career also involves constant research to combat the many issues that lie ahead. I hope to establish intellectual roots in the medical field; one that I already have a deep interest in. Once again, I would like to thank AGA Research Foundation for this tremendous opportunity to further explore my interests, as well as Dr. LaRusso for his mentorship thus far and in the future.

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imgKuangda L. Shan
Indiana University
EPEC Effectors EspF EspG and Map alter Tight Junctions

First of all, I would like to express my appreciation and gratitude to the donors and staff of the American Gastroenterological Association, as well as to my mentors at Loyola. I am a Nutrition Science major at Indiana University Bloomington. Although much of my time is devoted to the study of nutrition intake, digestive disorder is also a major field of interest. This is the reason behind the participation in Dr. Gail Hecht and Dr. Kim Hodges’ research of the effect of Enteropathogenic E. coli on human host cells.
Therefore, the student fellowship award that I am receiving from AGA has tremendous meaning to me. Not only does the grant enable me to research without financial burden. It also shows the support for the work that I’m undergoing at Loyola University Chicago. I faithfully believe that the research Dr. Hecht is engaging is beneficial to patients with gastrointestinal disorders, the medical community, and most importantly, to society. I also believe in individual’s endeavors at reaching self-potential to the fullest attributes to the success of a society. As an inspired premed student, I will expand my utmost effort in achieving my futures goals that will shape me into a dedicated and compassionate physician. Scientific research is the backbone and pioneer of medical advancement, and possibilities of outcome are endless. However, research is costly in both funding and time, and every little help and support to the discovery of new knowledge should is advantageous.

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imgAmanda E. Troy
Pennsylvania State College of Medicine
Disruption of 5-HT3 Receptor Number and Function on GI Vagal Afferents in High Fat Diet Fed Rats

I wish to express my most sincere gratitude to the AGA Research Foundation for this generous award. I truly appreciate the efforts of my mentor and the AGA Foundation for this great opportunity.

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imgEmily E. Vivio
Washington University
The relationship between disease activity and quantitative measures of sleep quality in Inflammatory
Bowel Disease(IBD) patients

It is an honor to be selected as a receipt of the AGA Student Research Fellowship Award. I am currently an undergraduate at Washington University in St. Louis with a major in psychology. My overarching career goal is to combine the field of medicine, psychology, scientific research, and behavioral science to better meet the treatment needs of patients with IBD. Currently, I plan on pursuing a PhD. in Clinical Health Psychology with an emphasis on treating patients with chronic illnesses. This grant will allow me to develop a better understanding of the psychosocial factors that go along with Inflammatory Bowel Disease, through novel research to develop a clearer understanding of the mechanisms underlying sleep disturbance in IBD patients. I am thankful for the generous support of the AGA and my mentor, Dr. Matthew A. Ciorba, which will allow me to continue my work in his lab full-time.

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imgMichael H. Warren
University of Chicago
Characterizing Wound Closure in Intestinal Stem Cell Cultures

I am truly honored and grateful to be a recipient of the AGA Student Research Fellowship Award. Also, I am very thankful to my mentors Dr. Jerrold Turner and Matt Odenwald for their support and advice throughout this process and throughout my first few months of working in lab. Although being a member of the lab during the school year has been incredible so far, I will not truly be able to grow into a better scientist until I can focus all of my time onto my experiments, which I will be able to do this summer.

I am currently a pre-medical Biology major at the University of Chicago. Although I can learn a lot in the classroom and through textbooks, nothing matches the in-depth knowledge that can be attained through hands on experience in lab. The skills I learn, and the projects I carry out, will not only help me become a better student, but will eventually help me become a better doctor.

The project I will carry out this summer through the generous support of the AGA will focus on epithelial stem cell cultures of the small intestine, or enteroids. I hope to develop these stem cell cultures into a viable wound-healing model, leading to an eventual assay of various tight-junction protein domains responsible for wound closure in the small intestine. I will focus on oligocellular wound closure, as these are the same kind of wounds that the intestine must constantly close during inflammation. Since maintenance of the intestinal epithelial barrier is essential to gastrointestinal function and dysfunction, understanding wound closure could lead to therapeutic techniques for various intestinal diseases.

I am very excited to be a recipient of this grant, and I look forward to contributing to the field of IBD research!

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imgKristen M. Westfall
Duke University
The Role of Esophageal Submucosal Fibroblasts in Protection After Injury

I am incredibly honored to be chosen as an AGA Student Research Fellowship Award recipient. I am grateful to both the AGA Research Foundation for selecting me, as well as my mentor, Dr. Katie Garman, for her guidance over the past two years. I am currently a rising senior, and first joined Dr. Garman’s lab during the summer after my freshman year. This spring, I completed an independent study, during which I explored the role of the submucosal glands in protecting the esophagus after injury using a pig model. The AGA Student Research Fellowship Award will allow me to take on my own full-time independent research project this summer. I am excited to continue studying the role of the submucosal glands and ducts, as well as their relationship to the submucosal fibroblasts, because these cells may play a critical role in the progression of Barrett’s Esophagus to Esophageal Adenocarcinoma.

As a pre-medical student, participating in research allows me the opportunity to apply what I have learned from current biological literature to important clinical questions. I appreciate the opportunity to plan experiments, perform the work, then analyze the data, taking these techniques to the next level in the lab. In working with Dr. Garman, I have learned how much I enjoy translational research, and I am interested in pursuing it in the future. Through shadowing physicians and observing procedures, I have gained an appreciation for the clinical side of gastroenterology. As I begin applying to medical school, this award will allow me to further explore my interest in translational gastrointestinal research.

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