Finding Causes and Triggers
A common question asked by patients and their caregivers is "What causes Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis?". Unfortunately, the causes and triggers of these chronic diseases remain unknown.
With the support of grants from Crohn's and Colitis Canada, the researchers noted below are moving us closer to discovering the factors that lead to the onset of these diseases by researching environmental triggers, genetic markers, and more.
2022 Grant Recipients
Dr. Kenneth Croitoru | University of Toronto
Research: Deciphering the role of the gut microbiota in the development of Crohn’s Disease
The Genetics, Environmental, Microbial (GEM) project is a study that aims to identify factors that can cause Crohn’s disease among healthy relatives of those living with Crohn’s disease. The study has over 5,000 participants from around the world. Preliminary findings show that a unique bacterium in the gut, and specific immune cells (antibodies) in the blood may be used to predict whether a person would develop Crohn’s Disease in the future.
Dr. Croitoru and his team now plan to test out their preliminary findings to better understand the bacteria that interact with the lining of the intestine during the early stages of Crohn’s disease. The outcomes of this research will assist in the development of new targets to treat or prevent Crohn’s disease.
Dr. Markus Geuking | University of Calgary
Research: Understanding how microbes and viruses affect colitis.
Dr. Geuking’s study will investigate how antigen mimicry between the intestinal microbiota and a systemic viral infection affects colitis. Previous studies have shown that microbial antigen mimicry of host autoantigens affects autoimmune disorders. Studies have also shown that in a mouse model of colitis, antigen mimicry of a host autoantigen has been demonstrated to be protective.
Dr. Geuking and his team will investigate the impact of antigen mimicry between the intestinal microbiota and a viral infection on colitis.
Dr. Jean-Eric Ghia | University of Manitoba
Research: Function of follicular dendritic cell secreted protein in ulcerative colitis
People living with ulcerative colitis are known to have inflammation and imbalances of microbes in the gut. Dr. Ghia and his team aim to study the effects of a protein (follicular dendritic cell secreted protein) in regulating inflammation, the immune system and the gut microbes and their impact in the development of ulcerative colitis.
Dr. David Lohnes | University of Ottawa
Research: Understanding the causes of ulcerative colitis using a new lab model
A protein called CDX2 is crucial for maintaining the normal life cycle of cells in the intestine. Previous research indicated that people living with ulcerative colitis have lower levels of CDX2 in their intestine. To test this correlation, Dr. Lohnes and his team devised a new model in the lab to understand how CDX2 impacts colitis patients. They found a correlation between low levels of CDX2 and increased inflammation in the intestine. Furthermore, they also found that when CDX2 levels are low, the levels of TNFa (a molecule known to cause IBD) was high.
Dr. Lohnes and his team now plan to expand their research to further understand how CDX2 causes inflammation and what other factors contribute to it. The results of this study will increase our understanding of the causes of ulcerative colitis.
Dr. Farhad Peerani | University of Alberta
Research: Investigating immune mechanisms underlying ulcerative colitis in the elderly
Dr. Peerani and his team aim to understand the differences in the immune system traits between elderly ulcerative colitis patients, adult ulcerative colitis patients, and healthy individuals. Dr. Peerani’s team will recruit 120 individuals and study their blood and colon cells for differences. This study will increase our understanding of ulcerative colitis and assist in managing the condition better.
Dr. Bruce Vallance | University of British Columbia
Research: Understanding how E.Coli infects the lining of the colon among colitis patients
The causes of ulcerative colitis is unclear. However, previous studies have shown that the colons of colitis patients were found to have a large amount of the E.Coli bacteria. While it is known that the bacteria infects the lining of the colon, it’s unclear as to how they bypass the normal protections in our intestine.
Dr. Vallance’s team aims to understand how E.Coli infects the lining of the colon and what mechanism causes it to bypass the protections in colon. They will be conducting these studies on healthy wildtype mice. This study will further improve our understanding of the causes of ulcerative colitis.
To learn about the 2021 completed research projects, click here.
To learn about the 2020 completed research projects, click here.
To learn about the 2019 completed research projects, click here.
To learn about the 2018 completed research projects, click here.
To learn about the 2017 completed research projects, click here.
To learn about the 2016 completed research projects, click here.
To learn about the 2015 and 2014 completed research projects, click here.