UL Student Zoha Panezai pictured in one of the laboratories in the University of Limerick
Wednesday, January 25, 2023


UL Student:  Zoha Panezai 

Course: BSc Biological and Chemical Sciences LM123 

Supervisor: Dr Fabiana A. Hoffmann Sarda 

Project Title: ‘Haematoxylin/eosin (H&E) staining and histology score on liver sections of mice submitted to high fat diet (HFD) and new low caloric sweeteners (LCS) intake 


Last Summer I was lucky enough to get a place on the Faculty of Science and Engineering UPSTaRT bursary programme. My research project was supervised by Dr Hoffmann Sardá. Dr Hoffmann Sardá’s research focuses on microbiome-health interactions and my UPSTaRT project built on her prior research. 

My research focuses on the effect of a high fat diet and various artificial and natural sweeteners on hepatic steatosis and FGF21 in mice. FGF21 (Fibroblast Growth Factor) is a hormone associated with diet, and lipid and metabolic regulation. FGF21 improves glycaemic control and contributes to the browning of white fat. It is a peptide-based, pleiotropic hormone. I compared tissue samples and biological data of mice on different diets and analysed the extent of steatosis dependent on sweetener and dietary fat intake. I learnt how to effectively utilise statistical data analysis as a research tool. The data generated from the tissue samples was analysed for significance and compared to values from existing literature. FGF21 is very promising in microbiome and nutrition research. This project could inform future research into the health effects of artificial sweeteners. 

There are few opportunities for first years to work in a lab setting, so I was fortunate that this bursary allowed me to explore research as an undergraduate. Overall, it has been an enjoyable and rewarding experience. For any student curious about a career in research, I recommend getting involved within the university as early as possible.