Investigating the Effects of Milk Thistle on Sterol Metabolism in Tetrahymena thermophila

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Authors
Lohar, Noah
Peed, Max
Advisor
Otto-Hitt, Stefanie
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Date of Issue
2024
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Title
Investigating the Effects of Milk Thistle on Sterol Metabolism in Tetrahymena thermophila
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Abstract
While homeopathic supplements have been used for thousands of years in traditional Eastern medicine, the availability of these supplements has increased dramatically within the last several decades. An area of concern is that these supplements are often sold without clinical evidence of their effectiveness or regulatory oversight from the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). This study aimed to explore the proposed hypolipidemic effects of Milk Thistle extract, also known as silymarin, on sterol metabolism in Tetrahymena thermophila. We hypothesized that a silymarin-induced decrease in T. thermophila cholesterol levels would result in the downregulation of genes involved in sterol metabolism, specifically DES5 and DES7. The DES5 and DES7 genes encode for C-5(6) sterol desaturase and C-7(8) sterol desaturase, respectively, and their encoded enzymes catalyze the conversion of most sterol species in T. thermophila. To test our hypothesis, T. thermophila cells were treated with either control media or silymarin supplemented media for 48 hours. Following treatment, behavioral assays were performed to determine the effect of silymarin on membrane fluidity, cell signaling, and cilia composition. Furthermore, Reverse Transcription quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-qPCR) was performed to measure expression of the DES5 and DES7 genes. The silymarin treatment was predicted to lower DES5 and DES7 expression due to decreased availability of cholesterol and subsequent sterol species. Also, we predicted lower cell motility due to reduced membrane fluidity, impaired cell signaling, and slower cilia growth compared to control groups.
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Biology