Ongoing Research Funded by DHF

Causes of Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis: The “Leaky Gut” Theory

2021  | Disease: General GastroenterologyGeneral Gastroenterology

Principal Researcher: Gregory Dean

Co-Principal Researcher: Stephen B. Hanauer, MD | Co-Principal Researcher: Josh Levitsky, MD, MS | Co-Principal Researcher: Imran Nizamuddin | 

Principal Investigator: Josh Levitsky, MD | Co-Principal Investigator: Imran Nizamuddin, MD

Primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) causes chronic inflammation of the bile ducts and, over time, potential liver failure. What triggers PSC and how it is strongly linked to ulcerative colitis (UC) remains unclear. One theory is that a “leaky gut” allows toxic compounds from the intestines to erroneously enter the liver. Dr. Levitsky’s team intends to test this theory by measuring intestinal permeability in PSC patients. Intestinal permeability (leakiness) can be studied by comparing absorption of different simple sugar solutions. Study participants will drink several sugar solutions to compare absorption and elimination in the urine. Researchers anticipate that the sugar levels in the urine will be different between patients with PSC, patients with PSC and ulcerative colitis, and healthy patients. If this occurs, the team will evaluate therapies, such as antibiotics, to assess their impact on the “leaky gut.” This project may serve as an initial step toward developing personalized treatment options for patients who currently don’t have any therapeutic options—currently a high unmet need in the field of gastroenterology.

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