Superfund Trainee Kendra Bonsey Uses Mouse Models to Investigate the Impact of the Gut Microbiome on Arsenic Toxicity

March 22, 2021

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Kendra Bonsey performing lab work for her research in the Superfund Research Center. Here, she is using x-ray absorption spectroscopy to look at the chemical form of arsenic in mine waste samples. Photo credit and location: Robert Root, Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource, Menlo Park, CA

Kendra Bonsey, a Master’s student in Dr. Jon Chorover’s lab in the Department of Environmental Science, is performing research focused on human exposure to environmental toxic arsenic from mine waste piles in the desert Southwest. Specifically, Kendra’s research investigates how arsenic in minerals from mine waste interact with the human body. When arsenic-bearing particles are inhaled or ingested, the level of toxicity depends on how much of the arsenic is released from the solid particles into the body and how it is biochemically transformed in the human digestive system.

A growing body of evidence shows that the human microbiota—the trillions of bacteria living in your digestive system and body—may alter the toxicity of arsenic. Many efforts seek to investigate the availability of arsenic in particulate matter to the human body by applying methods seeking to mimic the relevant digestive processes that occur in our bodies using appropriate model systems outside of living organisms. Kendra’s research is unique in that it applies mouse models to study the chemical form and accumulation of arsenic in mice after exposure to arsenic-bearing minerals. Additionally, in order to gain insight into the impact of the gut microbiome on arsenic toxicity, she is studying mice both with and without an active microbiome for comparison. This research will inform risk assessment for arsenic contamination from mine tailings and provide insight about the role of the gut microbiome in arsenic exposure.

When Kendra is not in the lab, she enjoys hiking, baking, reading, dancing, and connecting with friends and family members.