Rebekah Costello

Rebekah  Costello
MIT BE | Microbiome Undergraduate Research and Innovation Scholar
Advisor: Katharina Ribbeck
Department: Biological Engineering/UBIOME
Areas of Research: Biological Engineering
Years: 2018-2019
Research Project Title:

Effect of Enteric Mucins on the Transport and Antimicrobial Activity of Human Defensins

abstract:Gaining a greater understanding of the complex interactions between our immune systems and gut microbiome could help explain how our bodies regulate intestinal ecology and potentially uncover the causes of serious health problems such as Crohn’s Disease. The goal of my research is to further characterize the behavior of an antimicrobial peptide called human α-defensin 5 (HD5) that is released by our bodies into the gut mucosa as part of the innate immune response. Specifically, I plan to study how the protective mucus layer of the intestine, which houses the microbiome, alters the antimicrobial activity of these defensins and affects their diffusion towards potential targets. I will run a series of antimicrobial and microfluidic transport assays to quantify these changes.

"I am participating in SuperUROP because I enjoyed my previous research experiences and want to tackle a challenging, independent project. My participation in the NEET Living Machines thread introduced me to the exciting frontier of human microbiome research, and my BE classes have provided me with the tools to approach a scientific problem. I am most excited about the idea of producing novel data about the microbiome and publishing a paper."