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Dr. MacNaughton University of Calgary Investment in 2011/12: $125,000

Dr. Allen-Vercoe University of Guelph Investment in 2011/12: $54,702

Dr. Vanner Queen’s University Investment in 2011/12: $187,500

Dr. Vallance University of British Columbia Investment in 2011/12: $125,000

Dr. Blennerhassett Queen’s University Investment in 2011/12: $124,971

Dr. Bercik

McMaster University Investment in 2011/12: $140,796

Proteases break down proteins. Some proteases can trigger colonic inflammation but how this happens is not known. Dr. MacNaughton is studying protease-induced inflammation in order to identify new drugs to treat IBD. This work may also help to better understand inflammation-associated colorectal cancer, which occurs in some UC patients.

Chronic inflammation could be an initiating factor in colorectal cancer, which explains why IBD patients are more at risk for developing colorectal cancer. Dr. Allen-Vercoe is investigating whether a bug associated with periodontitis (an inflammatory condition in the mouth) can be used as a biomarker for colorectal cancer in order to develop an early, non- invasive screening test.

Dr. Vanner aims to understand the factors that control pain in IBD in order to develop new treatments. Dr. Vanner is developing a detection system in humans to monitor the levels of cysteine proteases in order to guide therapy. Alternatively, understanding how to increase the levels of naturally-released opioids that reduce pain could be another avenue for treating pain.

Repeated inflammation in the gut can cause “fibrosis” resulting in scar tissue. Ultimately this can block normal gut function, causing illness and even death. Dr. Vallance is studying whether bacteria in the gut, and the specific parts of the immune system that recognize those bacteria, are responsible for stricture formation. This work may lead to new clinical interventions to treat or prevent strictures.

Dr. Blennerhassett is studying how nerve cells present throughout the GI tract are damaged and how this may lead to stricture formation. Overall, this will improve our understanding of neuron damage and repair in order to prevent stricture formation in IBD.

Anxiety and depression are common in patients with IBD but it is not known whether they are the consequence of, or precede this chronic illness. Dr. Bercik is investigating whether depression and/or anxiety in mice is associated with abnormal gut microbiome, which would predispose mice to increased inflammation. This may lead to a new approach for treating IBD patients with anti-depressants and improve patients’ quality of life.


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