School of Medicine receives $2.5 million NIH grant to study intestinal inflammation

Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine has received a $2.5 million grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestives and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) to study intestinal inflammation.

The five-year grant from the institute, which is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), will enable the continued advancement of groundbreaking research, ultimately fueling the development of new treatments for conditions like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Fabio Cominelli, the Hermann Menges Jr. Chair in Internal Medicine, professor of medicine and pathology, chief of the Division of Gastroenterology and Liver Disease at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and director of the Digestive Health Institute at University Hospitals Case Medical Center, and Theresa Pizarro, associate professor of pathology, are principal investigators of the grant.

For nearly two decades, Cominelli and Pizarro have pioneered research in the field of cytokines, the messenger proteins that regulate the body’s immune responses, and intestinal mucosal inflammation, with the support of the NIDDK.

Their discoveries have contributed to the development of new therapies for patients suffering from Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, including antibodies against tumor necrosis factor (TNF), a cytokine involved in systemic inflammation. The renewal grant is designed to investigate the role of novel TNF-like factors such as TL1A and TWEAK in the pathogenesis of intestinal inflammation and augments the potential of developing additional new treatments for patients suffering from these devastating diseases.

“During this time of economic crisis and budget reductions, we feel particularly fortunate to continue to receive NIH funding for our research program and we are grateful for the support from the NIDDK,” Cominelli said.

Inflammatory bowel diseases, which include Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammation of the intestines, and ulcerative colitis, a condition that causes ulcers to develop in the rectum and colon, affect approximately 1.4 million individuals in the United States and several million people worldwide, according to Cominelli.

The research funded by the renewal grant will contribute to a greater understanding of how cytokines work to mediate intestinal inflammation and disease.

Cominelli and Pizarro hope their continued research efforts will contribute to more successful therapies and an eventual cure for patients with inflammatory bowel disease.