Miller School Researchers to Collaborate in Study of Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Hispanics

A team of Miller School of Medicine researchers has been awarded a $1.26 million grant to explore genetic variation in U.S.-born and foreign-born Hispanic patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

A common and devastating immune-mediated disease, IBD affects more than 1.6 million people in the U.S. The project, funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health, will investigate how the IBD risk associations for Hispanics compare with those for patients of primarily European ancestry. The focus of the three-year study is highly significant, as it represents the first opportunity to comprehensively explore genetic risk for IBD within the diverse ancestrally admixed Hispanic population.

The grant was awarded to Maria T. Abreu, M.D., professor of medicine and microbiology and immunology and Director of the Crohn’s and Colitis Center, and Jacob L. McCauley, M.D., associate professor in the Dr. John T. Macdonald Foundation Department of Human Genetics and Associate Director of the Center for Genome Technology within the John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics (HIHG). The project will build upon the existing interdisciplinary IBD clinical and genomics research collaborative at the Miller School. Abreu and her colleagues in the Crohn’s and Colitis Center have worked closely with McCauley and his team at the HIHG to establish a collection of IBD patient biospecimens for this this project.

The research funding will enable the researchers to better understand the complex interactions that cause IBD, a chronic disease, and ultimately help to identify better ways to prevent and treat chronic disease conditions. The project, titled “Innate Immune Pathways and the Microbiome in Hispanics with Inflammatory Bowel Disease,” will combine novel technologies and approaches to explore the genetic similarities and differences at play within the population of Hispanic patients suffering from IBD.

As a result of this unique funding opportunity, the Miller School and its investigative team will serve as an ancillary study for the NIDDK-supported IBD Genetics Consortium (IBDGC) and benefit from its resources. In turn, this will enhance the diversity of the IBDGC sample base for future studies by other consortium members and investigators.

“Dr. Abreu and I believe this work will be fundamental to understanding the genetic and environmental factors at play in IBD within the Hispanic population,” said McCauley.

Additional members of the grant team are Oriana Damas, M.D., assistant professor of medicine, Maria Alejandra Quintero, M.P.H., clinical research coordinator for the HIHG, and Adriana Martinez, M.S., a statistical analyst at HIHG.

This study is supported under grant number 1R01DK104844.

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