RESEARCH SPOTLIGHT

Propel a Cure is pleased to be featuring these international Crohn's disease research teams.

DR. MARCEL BEHR

McGILL UNIVERSITY, MONTREAL, CANADA

 

Dr. Marcel Behr is an elected fellow at the American Academy of Microbiology, a physician/scientist and full professor at McGill University in the Department of Medicine, as well as an associate member in the departments of Epidemiology, Biostatistics, Microbiology, and Immunology. He is the founding director of the McGill University’s International TB Centre and was recently named director of McGill’s Interdisciplinary Initiative in Infection and Immunity. 


Dr. Behr’s research focuses on both Mycobacterium Tuberculosis (TB) and Mycobacterium Avium, studying the tuberculosis bacterial genome and the genomic composition of Mycobacterium Avium to understand their pathogenesis (how it causes infection and how infection progresses to disease) and epidemiology of disease (how it spreads among people), and developing better diagnostic tools. In addition, he is studying the role of host pattern recognition receptors, especially NOD2 during infection. He believes that Crohn’s disease shares many similarities with other mycobacteria and sees an association with certain genetic mutations, such as NOD2 that are implicated in both Crohn’s disease and mycobacterial infections.


Research Goals: Dr. Marcel Behr’s research focuses primarily on mycobacteria and its etiological role in human disease. He believes that mycobacterium avium paratuberculosis, which causes Johne's disease in many animals, may play a role in the etiology of Crohn’s disease.

If you would like to contribute or find out more about this study, please contact propelacure@gmail.com.

DR. BRAM VERSTOCKT

UNIVERSITY HOSPITALS, LEUVEN, BELGIUM

 

Bram Verstockt MD, PhD, is a gastroenterologist, holding positions as a clinician and researcher in both the Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology and the Department of Chronic Diseases and Metabolism | KU Leuven at the University Hospitals Leuven, Belgium. He is interested in translational research focusing primarily on the development of predictive and prognostic markers for a more personalized medicine in IBD, as well as on unravelling IBD disease heterogeneity and perianal disease through multi-omics approaches. Additionally, Dr. Verstockt does clinical research on monitoring tools (including intestinal ultrasound), real-life IBD data (including therapeutic drug monitoring) and is involved in various international studies. In addition, he serves as a reviewer for multiple reviewers including The Lancet, Nature Reviews Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Gut, Gastroenterology, Lancet Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Annals of Internal Medicine, American Journal of Gastroenterology.



Research Goals: To determine predictive biomarkers in disease evolution, including disease heterogeneity and response to treatments.

If you would like to contribute or find out more about this study, please contact propelacure@gmail.com.

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DR. KEVIN TRACEY

FEINSTEIN INSTITUTES, NEW YORK

 

Dr. Kevin Tracey, a neurosurgeon by training and CEO of the Feinstein Institutes in New York, along with his colleagues, discovered the direct inflammatory activity of tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF), which eventually led to the development of medicines such as Remicade and Humira.

 

More recently, Dr. Tracey and his lab have been pioneers in the development of devices utilizing bioelectronic medicine, with a particular focus on the role of the vagus nerve in sending signals to the immune system. This work has huge potential to offer safe, life-changing solutions for those suffering from Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and other inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.

Research Goal: The team is seeking to more fully understand and continue to develop bioelectronic medicine for use in treating Crohn's disease and other chronic conditions.

If you would like to contribute or find out more about this study, please contact propelacure@gmail.com.

DR. BENOIT CHASSAING

INSERM INSTITUTE, PARIS

 

Dr. Benoit Chassaing earned his PhD in microbiology at the University of Clermont-Ferrand (France), focusing on the possible role of adherent-invasive E. coli (AIEC) in the etiology of Crohn's disease. He also spent time at Georgia State University prior to his current position leading the Chassaing Lab at INSERM in Paris, which specializes in studying the impact of the environment on our microbiota and has conducted groundbreaking research on the role of food additives in inflammation.


The Chassaing lab has previously reported that emulsifiers, highly used by the food industry, are able to detrimentally alter the intestinal microbiota, characterized by an increased ability to penetrate the normally protective mucus layer and increased pro-inflammatory potential. They demonstrated that consumption of emulsifying agents is sufficient to induce intestinal inflammation that will manifest as chronic colitis in genetically susceptible hosts.

Research Goal: Focusing on the mechanisms beyond such observations and understanding how dietary emulsifiers can directly impact the intestinal microbiota and characterize its members which are driving inflammation.

If you would like to contribute or find out more about this study, please contact propelacure@gmail.com.

​DR. MARK SUNDRUD

​SCRIPPS RESEARCH INSTITUTE

​Dr. Mark Sundrud is an Associate Professor in the Department of Immunology & Microbiology at the Scripps Research Institute.

Dr. Sundrud’s team has found that certain immune cells in the small intestine have evolved a molecular sensing mechanism to protect themselves from the toxic effects of high bile acid concentrations in the small intestine.

Bile acids are made in the liver and released during a meal to help with digestion and absorption of fats and fat-soluble vitamins. Bile is chemically similar to detergent and too much can lead to inflammation and potentially injure the intestinal lining.

The research team has discovered that a type of circulating immune system cell called a T helper cell 17, or TH17, can play an important role in digestion. When those circulating cells reach the end part of the small intestine, if they encounter too much bile, they adapt by switching on production of a gene called MDR1. They found that if the MDR1 gene is not present in those circulating immune cells or is mutated in a way that makes it ineffective, bile acids can accumulate in the ilium and injure the intestine.

In his latest study, Dr. Sundrud uncovered the mechanism that T-cells use to sense and respond to bile acids in the small intestine to increase MDR1 activity. According to Sundrud, about 10 percent of patients with Crohn’s disease have disease that is driven by bile reabsorption issues, and he is hoping to attract funding to continue this important work.

Research Goal: To continue the work validating the behaviors of MDR1 deficient CD4+T cells in Crohn’s disease patients and the therapeutic potential of bile acid sequestrants.

If you would like to contribute or find out more about this study, please contact propelacure@gmail.com.

​DR. BRIAN COOMBES

​​MICHAEL G. DEGROOTE INSTITUTE

​​Propel a Cure is pleased and excited to introduce Dr. Brian Coombes, Professor and Chair of Biochemistry & Biomedical Sciences at the esteemed Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research (IIDR) at McMaster University. Scientists in Dr. Coombes' lab are conducting basic research to understand the microbes that drive chronic inflammation during Crohn's disease, with a focus on adherent-invasive E. coli.

The innate immune system is a host’s first line of defense against foreign invaders, but pathogens like AIEC use sophisticated strategies to overcome the innate immune system in order to colonize, establish a host niche, and transmit to new hosts.  Dr. Coombes' lab has embarked on a line of research to understand the components of the innate immune system involved in protection against enteric pathogens such as Salmonella, pathogenic E. coli, and bacteria associated with Crohn’s disease.

Research Goal: Identifying and understanding microbes driving chronic inflammation leading to Crohn's disease, with a focus on adherent-invasive E. coli and the immune system.

If you would like to contribute or find out more about this study, please contact propelacure@gmail.com.

​​DR. MARK DAVIS

​STANFORD UNIVERSITY

​​​Propel a Cure is especially excited to be supporting the eminent immunologist, Dr. Mark Davis and his team in the Davis Lab at Stanford University.


Research Goal: Identification of circulating and tissue-resident CD4+ T cells specific for disease-driving antigens in Crohn’s disease

Propel a Cure has prioritized the funding of a study that would lead to the identification of circulating and tissue-resident CD4+ T cells specific for disease-driving antigens in Crohn’s disease. T cells are a type of white blood cell that appear to have a major role in the body’s overactive inflammatory response that is seen in Crohn’s.

If you would like to contribute or find out more about this study, please contact propelacure@gmail.com.