Peacock Scholarship

The Effects of Sucrose and Aspartame on Neurulation and Development in Xenopus laevis (African Clawed Frog)

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Obesity currently affects more than one-third of adults and 17 percent of youth in the United States while at least 24 million children and adults have type II diabetes. In an attempt to reduce the intake of calories, artificial sweeteners are often used to replace natural sugars, such as sucrose, in commonly consumed foods and drinks. With the rise of artificial sweetener usage there has been much speculation on their adverse effects, as well as those of sugar. While extensive research has been done on the carcinogenic effects of aspartame, far too few of it pertains to its effects on neurological development. Likewise, there is limited data that currently links the use of aspartame to changes in cardiac function, although more research is starting to suggest that greater aspartame consumption may have a role in the development of cardiovascular disease. This study investigates the effects of sucrose and aspartame, individually and in combination on larval development in Xenopus laevis (African clawed frog). Xenopus laevis embryos are an appropriate model organism due to the rapid rate of development and a transparent larval stage. Specimens were incubated in aspartame and sucrose concentrations of 10 μg/ml and 25 μg/ml. The rate of development of each group is analyzed and compared to the control group to draw a connection between the exposure to the compounds and their development; thus investigating a causal relationship. Embryos were photographed for any morphological changes. Preliminary results indicate that there were no observed changes in the neural development of the X. laevis however, the heart rates of those exposed to 25 μg/ml of aspartame were twice the rate of those exposed to lower concentrations of aspartame and of sucrose. Further research is needed to understand the effects of aspartame on the cardiovascular changes that result.

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  • 10/23/2019
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