Ongoing Research Funded by DHF

Discovery of Role of Certain Immune Cells in Increasingly Diagnosed Esophagus Disease (EoE) in Children

Principal Investigator: Joshua Wechsler, MD, MS, Attending Physician, Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition; CURED (Campaign Urging Research for Eosinophilic Disease) Foundation Research Scholar, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics (Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition) and Medicine (Allergy and Immunology), Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EoE) is a chronic immune disorder of the esophagus caused by certain foods triggering an allergic response, or by chronic GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease/acid reflux). Over time, chronic inflammation from EoE can lead to fibrosis (scarring) and subsequent esophageal stiffness and narrowing of the esophagus. Patients experience difficulty passing food and impaction when food becomes trapped in the esophagus. Identifying early signs and drivers of scarring would help prevent the development of these and other serious complications. Endoscopic Functional Luminal Impedance Probe (EndoFLIP) is used to measure esophageal distensibility (stiffness or stretchiness). Prior research has demonstrated that eosinophils—a type of immune cell—have a weak association with esophageal distensibility. While different types of immune cells play a role in EoE, the association of non-eosinophil immune cells has never been studied. Dr. Wechsler is examining the correlation between esophageal distensibility and non-eosinophil immune cell populations in children with EoE. The team expects this work will guide future studies on EndoFLIP, as well as how immune cells, such as mast cells and T-cells, impact esophageal fibrosis to help develop targeted treatments for EoE that can inhibit disease progression and its destructive effects on pediatric patients.

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