Ongoing Research Funded by DHF

Illuminating the Link Between Gut Health and Disrupted Circadian Sleep Rhythms in IBD Patients

Principal Investigator: Keith C. Summa, MD, PhD, Instructor of Medicine (Gastroenterology and Hepatology), Northwestern Medicine, Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine

A chronic autoimmune condition affecting over 1.6 million people in the U.S., inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) causes ongoing pain, infection, and debilitating symptoms for many people around the world. An umbrella term encompassing Crohn’s Disease, ulcerative colitis, and unspecified colitis, IBD is a growing global public health problem with more than 70,000 new cases, many in children, diagnosed each year in the U.S.  Intestinal inflammation occurs in combination with sleep problems, fatigue, and circadian rhythm disturbances in patients with IBD. In fact, studies have found increased alternations in the circadian clock system of IBD sufferers. Yet the exact molecular mechanisms linking sleep to IBD remain unclear. This year’s grant from DHF funds a study led by Dr. Keith Summa to take a deep dive into the ways sleep and circadian rhythms influence gut health. His team will study, in a mice model of colitis, if and how sleep and circadian disruptions trigger gut microbial changes and activate signaling pathways to accelerate damaging inflammation. The researchers hope this novel scientific avenue yields better insight into the underlying causes of IBD, leading to more effective therapeutic strategies to improve patients’ quality of life.

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