The Inflammatory Bowel Diseases



The human Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBDs), Crohn’s disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC) affect between 1 and 2 million Americans. The overall incidence of the IBDs is increasing for unknown reasons. There is no cure for IBD: Consequently, the chronic nature of IBD is therefore a steadily increasing burden on the healthcare system. Current medical and surgical approaches are insufficient for many IBD patients who endure attempts at trying different combinations of therapies over their entire life. Our lab is dedicated to the care of people with IBD while actively pursuing research that contributes to our understanding of Crohn’s disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC), with the ultimate goal of finding a cure. To accomplish these goals we have developed projects that bridge our work in animal models of IBD to human IBD with advanced technologies in immunology, microbiology, molecular biology and high throughput genomics.

Lay Summary

In general terms, we seek to understand how information is encoded and dynamically utilized in immune cells from healthy and disease prone intestines. We focus specifically on genes that regulate response to the bacteria that normally reside in our intestines. Many of these genes make products that regulate the immune system in the intestine. These products defend the intestine against the attack of foreign materials; such as bacteria that live in the intestine. We use genome-sequencing technology to precisely identify regions throughout the genome that are potential ‘on’ or ‘off’ switches for these genes. There is a fine balance between the genes that produce inflammatory substances that are necessary to kill bacteria and genes that produce anti-inflammatory substances that are important to prevent damage to the intestine. If this balance between inflammatory and anti-inflammatory substance production in the intestine is disrupted, IBD may result. Our lab focuses on understanding how these important controllers of inflammation are turned on and off in IBD. We also study how inflammatory and anti-inflammatory signals impact disease severity, progression and response to therapy in individuals with IBD. This information has the potential to increase our understanding of causes of IBD (personalized medicine) and to contribute to the development of new treatments.