Researchers Want YOUR Poop!

Researchers Want YOUR Poop!

At least take me out on a date first…

On Wednesday, 10 August, a mass email was sent out by Dr. Dominic Agyei in the Food Science Department. It was asking students for their poop.

The email was objectively hilarious, opening with the line: “We scratched our heads for a while but could not think of a nicer way to say it than that we want your poo.” The email detailed the specifics of the study, which will look at how microbial bacteria in your gut can give insights into Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). It then closed with a delightful poem (see below). 

Critic Te Ārohi chatted with Patrick Nolan, a student working in the gut bacteria field. While he hasn’t actually been in the poo lab yet, he stressed the importance of the study. “Poo is a direct link to what is coming from our [gut], and so from that you can see what sort of bacteria are in there and also what sort of products these bacteria are producing. When you start comparing people's poo, you get an understanding of what variations there are between people, which can be important for looking at diseases like IBD.”

According to Patrick, “diet and lifestyle influence gut bacteria”, which in turn are “unbelievably influential on inflammation in your body, and have direct links to immunity and protection”. He referenced a field called psychobiotics, which studies the relationship between your gut biome and your mood. “The vagus nerve”, he explained, “is the connection between your brain and your tummy. There’s a lot of research that shows a strong link between the bacteria in your gut [and your mood].” While that’s cool on its own, the study focuses on the connections a little lower down in the body. It’s looking specifically at IBD, and changes in people’s gut biomes, as seen in their poo, may provide valuable insights into what’s going on in their puku.

Led by Dominic, a food scientist and Critic’s new favourite poet, the study is run by the Food Science Department. Patrick could not confirm if the researchers wore smell-protection in the lab, though he emphasised the sterile nature of the procedure. He also could also not confirm if the researchers did their poo-work before or after lunch: “I’m sure for their own sake I’d be hoping they'd do it after lunch - but that might be even worse!”

While the topic may make people “a bit uncomfortable”, Patrick said that Dominic’s choice to use humour in the email was “fantastic”. “A lot of people get sort of weirded out by the idea of collecting your poo and handing it over to someone else,” he said. “I think that's what Dominic was trying to get through in the email, sort of a little bit of humour in there to make it a little less uncomfortable.” After all, collecting real poo is “something that is necessary for this research, so you gotta find any way you can to try to make participants feel as comfortable as they can about it.”

If you want to take part in the study, you can check out the attached flyer. But “definitely don’t” show up to the Food Science Department with a doggie bag of your own poo, said Patrick. Instead, if you’re confirmed as a participant, they’ll send you a kit with instructions and sterile tools for collection, which sounds a lot less messy.

Working with ‘poo’
To us is not a boo-boo,
Nor is it taboo
‘Cos ours is a research group who
Specialise in unearthing mysteries in poo.
Ngoni is a bioinformatics guru
Biniam’s fingerprinting toolkit will woo
The most reluctant of scientific data to
Reveal patterns and insights too.
So we want your poo.
If you can help, please do
Give us some ‘solids’ from the loo.
We’ll thank you, as it is your due
And you’ll further scientific inquiry too.
Whether you’re from Honolulu or Timbuktu,
Your help will do; Yes, yours, too

This article first appeared in Issue 20, 2022.
Posted 3:01pm Friday 19th August 2022 by Fox Meyer.