Open/Close Menu Supporting Research at the University of Chicago Medicine Digestive Diseases Center

Support from GIRF is enabling Bana Jabri, MD, PhD, and her colleagues to translate discoveries in the laboratory in order to have an impact on patient care.

Dr. Jabri is an internationally renowned pediatric gastroenterologist, immunologist, and basic scientist. She developed the first mouse model for studying celiac disease, which has allowed researchers to test promising new treatments in mice before conducting trials with patients.

Celiac disease causes damage to the small intestine when patients with the condition consume gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Currently, the only treatment is to follow a strict gluten-free diet. However, Dr. Jabri and her colleagues are making exciting breakthroughs in their efforts to prevent, treat, and cure the disease.

This February, Dr. Jabri and collaborators published research finding that celiac disease permanently reshapes immune cells in the intestine. The study, published in the journal Cell, focused on tissue-resident lymphocytes – immune cells that help maintain and protect our tissues at barrier sites like the lining of the intestine.

The research team discovered that tissue-resident lymphocytes normally found in the healthy intestine were permanently displaced in patients with celiac disease. They were replaced by new cells that showed sensitivity to gluten. This was the case even in patients who had gone on a gluten-free diet. The research indicates that chronic inflammation in patients with celiac disease permanently changes the community of immune cells in the small intestine, which may have a lasting impact on how the gut responds in the future. This insight could lead to new approaches to treating and managing celiac disease.

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