One West Virginia University student’s research on sugary sodas and liver disease will take her to Capitol Hill this week to meet with congressional representatives and advocate for undergraduate research.
Sundus Lateef of Bridgeport is one of 60 students selected nationally by the Council on Undergraduate Research to showcase her work to members of Congress and their staff at the annual Posters on the Hill session on April 25-26.
Lateef’s work has a significant impact for West Virginia where non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is highly prevalent and in the U.S. where 30 million people are affected by the disease. She has been working with Dr. Janet Tou, Human Nutrition and Foods, and Dr. Vagner Benedito, Genetics and Developmental Biology in the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Design since she was a freshman. Their research, “High Fructose Corn Syrup-55 Promotes Triglyceride Accumulation and Alters Fat Metabolism in the Liver,” has been published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.
“Our lab group is studying diet therapies as well as dietary components that aggravate liver disease,” Lateef said. “In this project, we studied the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in a young healthy female rats. We fed them a balanced solid diet and one of four drinks: either water, sucrose (table sugar), high fructose corn syrup-55 (5% higher fructose than table sugar), or pure fructose, and we gave the sugar drinks at a concentration found in soft drinks”
They discovered that after only eight weeks, the rats consuming high fructose corn syrup-55 developed extensive fat deposits in the liver before they became obese. This research suggests that high fructose corn syrup-55 consumption increases non-alcoholic fatty liver disease by readily promoting the conversion of sugar into fat in the body and by leading to fat accumulation in the liver – fat isn’t sent to fat tissues as it should be and is getting stuck in the liver instead. This is significant, Lateef said, because high-fructose corn syrup has replaced sucrose as the sugar used in soft drinks in the U.S.
This is the third time her work in this area has been recognized. Lateef was awarded the top prize in the biology-animal division at the WVU Undergraduate Spring Symposium and she also presented this research at the Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol in Charleston. She is a student in the Honors College is graduating in May with a dual degree in biology and chemistry from the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences. Among her many accolades, she was named to the WVU Order of Augusta for outstanding seniors. She is graduating in May and plans to attend the WVU School of Medicine this fall.
“I am excited to represent WVU and advocate for all of the wonderful research opportunities we have here for undergraduate students,” Lateef said. It is so important for legislators to understand the vibrant academic community we have at WVU, and it's equally important for students to seek out enriching opportunities outside of the classroom.”
“This is a great honor for Sundus and WVU,” said Michelle Richards-Babb, director of the Office of Undergraduate Research. “More importantly, her research encapsulates the land grant mission of WVU because this directly benefits the health and welfare of West Virginians.”
The Office of Undergraduate Research connects students with faculty to conduct research that advances knowledge for the state, the nation, and the world. The opportunities are not limited to the science, technology, engineering and math fields but include liberal and creative arts as well. Interested students can contact the office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Richards-Babb, Ph.D., director of the Office of Undergraduate Research