$6.75M Awarded to Case Western Reserve to Study IBD

NIDDK Grant to School of Medicine Examines Role of Innate Immunity

News Release: Tuesday, December 20, 2011

CLEVELAND - Investigators at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine received a $6.75 million Program Project Grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) to study the role of innate immunity in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). For years, scientists have focused their attention on the role of lymphocytes and the adaptive immune system in the cause of Crohn's disease, a chronic debilitating disease affecting more than one million individuals in the United States. This grant supports the investigation of a new pathogenesis, or cause of the disease, which was discovered by Fabio Cominelli, MD, PhD, professor of medicine and pathology, chief of the division of gastrointestinal and liver disease at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and director of the Digestive Health Institute at University Hospitals Case Medical Center.

Dr. Cominelli and a team of investigators in the Digestive Health Research Center, using a spontaneous mouse model of ileitis, a type of Crohn's disease, discovered that the intestinal innate immune system may play a primary and critical role in causing the disease. The body’s innate immune system represents the first line of general defense against harmful agents and includes infection-fighting cells. In the ileitis model, they found a deficit of these cells and as a result, harmful agents weren’t being eliminated from the body. Previously, the scientific medical community thought there was a specific component triggering a reaction within the body, much like production of an antibody in response to a particular virus but rather it is a deficit in the body’s natural immune system.

"We are very excited about this opportunity to study this unique mouse model of IBD and make important discoveries that can be directly applied to improve patient care and developing novel therapeutic modalities for this devastating disease. We are honored that this is the first new Program Project Grant funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases since 2006 to study IBD,” commented Dr. Cominelli, who also hold the Hermann Menges, Jr. Chair in Internal Medicine.

The team is working to develop a novel therapeutic drug target in order to manipulate the immune system. Based on the data, they hope to begin to develop a cure for Crohn’s disease in five to 10 years.

The team directed by Dr. Cominelli is comprised of Derek Abbott, MD, assistant professor of pathology and Dr. Theresa Pizarro, PhD, associate professor of pathology, both at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and Dr. Klaus Ley, head of the Inflammation Division at the La Jolla Institute of Allergy & Immunology in San Diego.

About Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine

Founded in 1843, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine is the largest medical research institution in Ohio and is among the nation's top medical schools for research funding from the National Institutes of Health. The School of Medicine is recognized throughout the international medical community for outstanding achievements in teaching. The School's innovative and pioneering Western Reserve2 curriculum interweaves four themes--research and scholarship, clinical mastery, leadership, and civic professionalism--to prepare students for the practice of evidence-based medicine in the rapidly changing health care environment of the 21st century. Eleven Nobel Laureates have been affiliated with the school.

Annually, the School of Medicine trains more than 800 M.D. and M.D./Ph.D. students and ranks in the top 25 among U.S. research-oriented medical schools as designated by U.S. News & World Report "Guide to Graduate Education."

The School of Medicine's primary affiliate is University Hospitals Case Medical Center and is additionally affiliated with MetroHealth Medical Center, the Louis Stokes Cleveland Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and the Cleveland Clinic, with which it established the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University in 2002.