Medical Lab Students Win National Competition

Remember that old saying: “If at first you don’t succeed — try, try again?” A group of Weber State University medical laboratory sciences (MLS) students must have taken it to heart when they entered a national undergraduate research poster competition sponsored by The American Society for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (ASCLS). “We’ve taken students every year but haven’t won until this year,” says Janet Oja, MLS program director and student mentor. 

Students Mckenzie Carter, Zachary Gibson and Alex Rich submitted a poster depicting their team’s hypothesis that celiac disease is linked to inherited blood types. They were awarded a plaque, a $500 stipend and a yearlong ASCLS membership when their entry won first place. “Every accredited school in the nation can submit a poster and this year, we won in the undergraduate competition,” says Oja.

To determine a link between celiac disease and blood type, the team scoured the medical records of patients with celiac disease and compared their blood types with people who did not suffer from the condition. Celiac disease is a digestive disorder that damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. People with the disease can’t tolerate gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley.           

Researchers have yet to determine the exact cause of celiac disease. The WSU students concluded that when it comes to having celiac disease, a person’s secretor status, meaning whether or not blood type antigens are released into body fluids and secretions like mucus and saliva, plays a more significant role than blood type.

This year’s annual ASCLS meeting was held in Atlanta, Georgia.