Meet our People

 Lindsay Leonard, Graduate Student

LeonardLindsay Leonard is a current graduate student in Dr. Tzu-Wen Cross’s lab working towards an M.S. degree in Nutrition Science. Lindsay is from Greendale, Wisconsin, and received her B.S. in Microbiology from the College of Biological Sciences at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities in 2019. She worked as a Research Intern at Arm & Hammer Animal Nutrition from 2017-2019 studying the impact of probiotics on livestock and poultry. She then worked as a full-time Poultry Research Scientist and Food Safety Research Scientist at Arm and Hammer for a year before attending Purdue.Lindsay uses an anaerobic chamber to culture many of her oxygen-sensitive strains of bacteria.

Her current project is focused on studying equol, a microbial metabolite of soy isoflavone daidzein. Soy isoflavones are plant-derived phytoestrogens that are structurally similar to mammalian estrogens. Equol is known to have the highest binding affinity to estrogen receptors among all soy isoflavones and mimics the effects of estrogen in the human body. Humans lack the enzymes needed to convert daidzein into equol and depend on the bacterial enzymes in our gut microbiome for this conversion to produce equol. However, less than half of the Western population has these gut bacteria to be classified as an “equol producer”. Through associations, research has shown that those who are equol producers benefit greater from soy intake in areas such as osteoporosis and cardiometabolic diseases, particularly in post-menopausal women. As conventional rodents are highly efficient equol producers due to the natural microbiome harbored, the benefits of being an equol producer are difficult to discern. Lindsay aims to develop a model system that can be used to compare equol producers to non-equol producers by colonizing germ-free
Lindsay’s two cats Gloria (grey) and Layton (black and white).mice with synthetic microbiomes of defined microbial communities. Once established, this model system can then be used in future studies to determine if a cause-and-effect relationship with the benefits observed from being an equol producer exists.

During her time living in Indiana, Lindsay has also expanded her family, adopting two loving cats. She adopted her older cat, Gloria, in August of 2020 and recently adopted her younger cat, Layton, in May of 2021.


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