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Dr. Karen BolandDr. Karen Boland

2017 Venture Sinai Fellow:
Dr. Karen Boland

The influence of the gut microbiome on inflammatory bowel disease

Research Summary: In Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), up to half of patients who have little or no active disease after treatment have persistent symptoms which may prove difficult to manage. There are a number of potential explanations for residual symptoms including drug side effects, and surgeries, but we hypothesized that gut bacteria may play a role. The intestinal microbiome refers to specific bacteria, viruses and fungi that reside on the bowel wall. In the human intestine, these bacteria contribute to the development of IBD. We have researched the influence of these microbes on patient symptoms.

We recruited 213 patients with IBD and 48 healthy patients, and analysed bacterial DNA from bowel biopsies. We found that in Crohn’s disease, the bacterial communities residing in treated and healed bowel was smaller when compared with healthy patients. Looking at these treated Crohn’s disease patients more closely, those patients who experienced ongoing daily loose stool and clinical symptoms despite successful treatment had less diverse microbiome communities in their colon than asymptomatic treated patients, and had lower numbers of beneficial gut bacteria. Similar findings were noted in patients with moderate-severe active ulcerative colitis, with less diverse bacterial communities associated with more severe symptoms. Future evaluation may support efforts to identify personalized probiotic components that will help specific patient populations.

Past Fellows:

2016: Dr. Erin Mulvihill
Lab of Dr. Murray Huff
Topic: Uncovering Molecular Targets to Treat Type 2 Diabetes

2015: Meagan Clark
Lab of Dr. Jim Woodgett
Topic: Alzheimer’s Disease: Pathology of the Vanishing Mind

2014: Dr. Jacqueline L. Beaudry
Lab of Dr. Daniel Drucker
Topic: Brown is the new fat

2013: Dr. Nicole St-Denis
Investigator, Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute
Topic: Enzymes and their Role in Cancer

2012: Dr. Derek Ceccarelli
Research Associate in the lab of Dr. Frank Sicheri
Topic: Putting the Brakes Back on Cancer

2011: Dr. Peter Tonge
Post-Doctoral Researcher in the lab of Dr. Andras Nagy
Topic: Replacement Parts