Meryem Ok, BME graduate student in the UNC MD-PhD program, recently received a four-year National Research Service Award (NRSA F30) from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases for her proposal titled, “A Novel Planar Crypt Microarray for Real-Time Evaluation of Human Intestinal Stem Cell Fate.” Meryem is sponsored by Dr. Scott Magness, BME Associate Professor and Director of the Center for Gastrointestinal Biology and Disease Advanced Analytics Core.
The premise of Meryem’s project is that the mechanisms underlying inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are poorly characterized and involve a complex interplay of altered gut microbial environment, cytokine activity, and impaired intestinal stem cell (ISC) self-renewal and differentiation. Her proposal seeks to investigate the effects of the microbial metabolite butyrate and the cytokine interleukin (IL)-22 on asymmetric division of primary human colonic ISCs using a planar crypt microarray platform and CRISPR-integrated biosensors for live-imaging and transcriptomic analysis. Anticipated outcomes from her research in the Magness Lab will shed light on the utility of this in vitro intestinal model and the potential role of butyrate-IL-22-signaling in IBD pathogenesis. In addition, she will work closely with Dr. Ajay Gulati, UNC pediatric gastroenterologist, to gain a better clinical understanding of IBD as part of her integrated physician-scientist fellowship training. Congratulations on this award Meryem!