Cal State LA Microbiology Student awarded high honor for women’s health research

Karl Liboro is a microbiology major at Cal State LA and his recent project has been honored with the Howell-CSUPERB Research Scholar Award at the 28th CSU Biotechnology symposium, which was held at the Hyatt Regency Orange County this past January.

The award was offered by the CSU Program for Education and Research in Biotechnology (CSUPERB), in partnership with the Doris A. Howell Foundation for Women’s Health Research.

Supervised by his mentor, microbiology professor Hyunsook Park, Liboro will design and conduct research on the effects of lactobacillus on limiting candida albicans, which causes vaginal yeast infection.

To explain this seemingly abstract concept, Liboro described it as the battle of good and bad. In the vagina, you can normally find both candida albicans and lactobacillus. Candida albicans is a fungus and it’s part of your microflora. But sometimes it’s opportunistic, meaning it doesn’t become infectious unless your immune system is weakened or unbalanced. Some researchers have suggested that lactobacillus is good for the body and it can affect the growth of candida albicans in many ways.

“We’ve noticed a trend from previous researches that if you put lactobacillus and candida albicans together, [the latter] tend to grow less,” Liboro said. “But they don’t say how, and that’s why we are looking into it because the ‘How’ is the next step after discovering the trend.”

Yeast infection is not deadly, but it’s annoying to have and difficult to get rid of. According to Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 75 percent of all adult women have had at least one yeast infection in their lifetime. “It’s nothing like curing cancer, but it would be much more convenient not to get them,” Liboro said.

As a first-year attendee of the research lab, Liboro said this was actually his first time trying to design his own project. Dr. Park and colleagues in the lab had been quite supportive, but the project was mainly intended for individual research.

When asked about the award, Liboro grinned, “It’s for the purpose of the research- they fund the project to facilitate the process, but designing the actual project is entirely up to me. You got to do your best and you have to meet the expectation.”

“I’m still designing the research,” Liboro said. “So far I’ve found from literature that there are many ways [lactobacillus] can limit the growth of candida, or it can raise the defense of immune system, or if it can directly act on candida.”

Liboro also expressed that many people think research can be done with effective results in a rather timely manner, but it’s a common misperception.

“The end goal that we would like to see is we develop some definite and concrete ways to limit yeast infection, but it would be difficult. It takes a lot of people to do research and to make that happen, but it doesn’t mean we can’t contribute to that progress,” Liboro said. “We are more likely to expand the knowledge on lactobacillus and candida albicans, and hopefully we can push the topic to a direction that hasn’t been explored before.”

For a graduate program, Liboro desires to attend medical school and to become a infectious disease specialist. He also wishes to keep on researching. After all, everyone’s contribution helps.

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