Our Unique Focus  >  Inflammatory Bowel Diseases

Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD) are a group of disorders that fall into two general categories: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Crohn’s can involve any part of the gastrointestinal tract, while ulcerative colitis only affects the colon and rectum. Symptoms of both types of IBD include diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Extraintestinal organs and sites—liver, joints, skin, eyes—can also be affected. In severe cases, IBD can lead to fatal health complications.

Today, as many as 2 million Americans are afflicted with IBD. Though the causes remain elusive, research points to an unfortunate combination of genetic susceptibility and environmental factors. Several genetic mutations or polymorphisms have also been linked with increased risk of IBD, particularly Crohn’s disease. Many of these genes influence our ability to interact with our own intestinal microbes. For this reason, host-microbial interactions are a subject of intense study at the University of Chicago. 

IBD Research at the DDRCC

The Center is committed to identifying the causes and understanding the mechanisms regulating the pathogenesis of IBD. Our multidisciplinary research group, which includes experts in clinical IBD treatment, immunology, microbiology, cell and molecular biology, genetics, cancer biology, pathology, chemistry, and pediatrics, is the key to achieving this goal. Collaboration among these researchers and with partner organizations will lead to more effective and specific treatments, and bring us closer to finding a cure.

IBD-related Cancer research. Colorectal cancer is a devastating complication of IBD.  Presently, there are no means other than surveillance colonoscopy for assessing individuals at risk.  The causes of IBD-associated colon cancer are also poorly understood and effective treatments of advanced cancers are lacking.  Through innovative animal models, genetic analysis, and human subject-based research, the IBD research group is gaining insights into disease mechanisms that have led to new strategies for early diagnosis and development of new therapeutic approaches.

SHARE. This is a program that aligns The University of Chicago’s Clinical IBD Center with a consortium of six other research institutions: Mount Sinai Medical Center, the University of North Carolina, Massachusetts General Hospital, Mayo Clinic, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, and Washington University at St. Louis. The goal of the program is to create a culture of sharing and cooperation by pooling resources and patient databases and conducting multi-center studies that could not otherwise be performed by a single institution.

Human Microbiome Study. The Clinical IBD Center is also part of an NIH-supported human microbiome study to understand the role of intestinal microbes in the development of IBD. The project includes investigators from Michigan State University, the University of Michigan, the Marine Biological Laboratories at Cold Spring Harbor, and Argonne National Laboratory.

Other Resources

For more information on IBD, visit the University of Chicago’s Clinical IBD Center.