Jeannette Messer is a Pathway to Independence Instructor and Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America Research Fellow at the University of Chicago. She leads a team of scientists investigating the role of intestinal bacteria in inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD).
Bacteria contribute to IBD by damaging the intestine and activating immune cells. However, which bacteria are dangerous and how they cause damage are not understood. Most laboratories are approaching this question by cataloging the bacteria found in healthy humans versus IBD patients. Dr. Messer’s group is taking a very different approach in which they use the immune system to identify dangerous bacteria. This has led to their discovery of a completely new intestinal anti-bacterial defense system that keeps bacteria from becoming dangerous in the intestine.
They are now working to understand how disease associated bacteria evade this defense mechanism, with respect to both bacterial and human mechanisms that may be relevant to IBD. They also plan to use this knowledge to develop non-antibiotic based strategies targeting disease-causing bacteria for treatment of IBD.