Can Probiotics Improve Circadian Sleep Rhythms and Symptoms in Ulcerative Colitis Patients?

Principal Investigator: Fred W. Turek, PhD, Charles and Emma Morrison Professor, Northwestern Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences Experiments in animal models of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) have shown that disruption of sleep and circadian rhythms increases susceptibility to intestinal inflammation. In addition, studies in patients with IBD have found alterations in the circadian clock that may indicate pervasive sleep problems. Despite these connections, little is known about how sleep and circadian rhythms are involved in gut health, or if strategies to promote sleep and reduce stress can mitigate the risk for intestinal inflammation.  Alterations in the intestinal bacteria (microbiome) and abnormal host responses to these bacteria may be contributing factors to the development of IBD. Recent studies have revealed links between the microbiome, circadian rhythms, and the sleep-wake cycle. In previous work, Dr. Turek’s team found that a probiotic promoted resilience to sleep restriction and acute stress exposure. In this project, the investigators are determining if a probiotic can also protect against intestinal inflammation and pathology in a mouse model of colitis. The potential for probiotics to improve sleep and decrease disease activity is an exciting avenue of study that may provide low risk options to improve the daily lives of IBD...

Revealing Connection between Blood Sugar Levels and Digestive Symptoms in IBD Patients

Principal Investigator: Tiffany Taft, PsyD, MIS, Research Associate Professor, Director of Psychogastroenterology Research, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology & Hepatology, Department of Medical Social Sciences Emerging research shows that changes in the body’s blood sugar or “glycemic variability” may worsen inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) symptoms such as nausea, bloating, and pain. Dr. Taft is first determining if glycemic variability is linked to symptom severity in patients with IBD and, secondly, identifying how the foods IBD patients eat affect their glycemic variability. Study participants will wear a continuous glucose monitor, like those worn by patients with diabetes, for 14 days to assess changes to their blood sugar levels. During this time period, participants will write down their daily IBD symptoms and complete a journal of what they ate and drank to detail their diets. The diet information from the food journals will be entered into a nutrition analysis software program to identify what, if any, aspects of the person’s diet affect their blood sugar, and how changes in blood sugar might affect their IBD symptoms. Understanding glycemic variably offers a novel approach to the diet puzzle for better managing IBD, improving patient symptoms and quality of...

Fighting Fatigue: A Widespread Symptom in IBD Patients

Principal Investigator: Tiffany Taft, PsyD, MIS, Research Associate Professor, Director of Psychogastroenterology Research, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology & Hepatology, Department of Medical Social Sciences Fatigue remains a major issue in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Many patients find it just as debilitating as abdominal pain or bowel control. Lacking reliable therapeutic options, clinicians grapple with how to adequately manage it. Dr. Taft believes heart rate variability (HRV)—the change in time intervals between each heartbeat—may play a role. The Taft team is studying the relationship between normal HRV changes and fatigue in patients with IBD, while considering the influence of other factors such as inflammation, mood, and sleep. The investigators will measure markers of inflammation, as well as common vitamin and mineral deficiencies in IBD patients via a phlebotomist blood draw at the start of the study. Participants will wear Fitbit devices to monitor their HRV continuously over two weeks. If a relationship exists between low HRV and fatigue, improving HRV via behavioral techniques, such as slow-breathing and other relaxation methods, has the potential to greatly improve outcomes and quality of life for IBD patients living with chronic fatigue as part of their...

Solving Medication Resistance in IBD Patients with High Level Mapping of Digestive Immune Cells

Principal Investigator: Ronen Sumagin, PhD, Assistant Professor of Pathology (Experimental Pathology), Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine When conventional medications, such as corticosteroids or 5-aminosalicylates, fail to work in IBD patients, biologics that block a critical inflammatory molecule called tumor-necrosis-factor alpha (TNFα) are commonly prescribed. However, one third of patients receive no relief from these biologic drugs, and other patients become resistant to the therapy over time, forcing physicians to pursue other avenues of treatment for their patients. In previous work, the Sumagin lab and other researchers established the important role of immune cells, called neutrophils, in IBD. Recent studies revealed that in inflamed tissue there are diverse neutrophil populations with distinct functions. With the DHF grant, Dr. Sumagin is using innovative single-cell sequencing to map neutrophil diversity in IBD. His research team seeks to determine whether specific neutrophil subtype(s) dictate resistance to anti-TNFα therapy. This effort offers great promise for unraveling new disease processes and identifying predictive biomarkers of treatment outcomes or drug targets to prevent anti-TNFα resistance in IBD patients.  Physicians could then predict ahead of time which drugs may work for their patients living with IBD. This valuable insight could potentially decrease symptom or disease flares, as a result of drug inefficacy or resistance, in the long-term treatment of...

Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology Northwestern Medicine/Feinberg School of Medicine
Center for Artificial Intelligence and Mathematics in Gastroenterology

Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology Northwestern Medicine/Feinberg School of Medicine Center for Artificial Intelligence and Mathematics in Gastroenterology The Center for Artificial Intelligence and Mathematics in Gastroenterology (AIM-GI) is a first of its kind program developed in a division of Gastroenterology.  Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning have the potential to vastly improve our ability to accurately predict, diagnose and treat our patients living with digestive diseases.  Through collaboration with engineers at the McCormick School of Engineering and physician scientists at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, our team has been incorporating mathematical modeling and advanced programming to study the mechanisms that lead to poor gastrointestinal function.  This work led to the development of a more formalized center that focuses on three main initiatives. Development of virtual organs which can be used to study the effects of surgery and medications; Development of new hybrid diagnostic tools using AI and machine learning to enhance diagnosis; Using machine learning and neutral networks to predict disease outcome. Although this is a new program, we have already had success developing an NIH funded Center of Research Expertise (CORE) and we have also developed new AI prototypes that can improve diagnostic accuracy and reliability of motility tests.  This work is supported by the generosity of the Digestive Health Foundation and these funds help provide the computational power and expertise required to continue to develop these innovative tools.  Our goal is to continue invent and develop new approaches and our partnership with the Digestive Disease Foundation will continue to allow us to grow and evolve this...