A Message from DDRCC Director, Eugene B. Chang, M.D.

One challenge of this millennium will be dealing with the onslaught of “new age” disorders, that is, diseases less prevalent 50 to 100 years ago but now increasing in frequency despite the many advances in modern medicine. These include complex immune disorders like inflammatory bowel diseases, type 1 diabetes, Celiac disease, asthma, and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as more common diseases such as colon cancer, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.

The rapid pace of these developments cannot be explained by genetic drift but is likely due to shifts in environmental factors and societal norms brought on by cultural Westernization. Accompanying these are dramatic changes in the collective human microbiome of the gastrointestinal tract, a community of trillions of microbial organisms that together function as an “acquired” organ of our bodies, essential to sustaining health.

The gut microbial organ plays a vital role in shaping our immune and metabolic systems. Like any other organ of the body, perturbations in its development and function caused by environmental, dietary, or lifestyle factors can have disastrous repercussions and result in the development of acute and chronic diseases.

This knowledge can now be exploited to gain a better understanding of how immunological and metabolic homeostasis can be restored. As a result, we are approaching a new era of discovery that will lead to microbiome-based interventions and diagnostics that will become the future tools of precision medicine—and ultimately lead to improved clinical outcomes and the prevention and cure of many diseases.

Our Unique Focus

Most digestive disease research centers excel in one main area of research. At the University of Chicago DDRCC, we are at the forefront of research in three fields, and all three are led by well-known investigators: Drs. Eugene Chang and Jerry Turner in inflammatory bowel diseases, Dr. Bana Jabri in Celiac disease, and Dr. Cathryn Nagler in food allergy. Our program is closely integrated with the clinical IBD and gastroenterology groups at the University of Chicago.

The range and depth of our research base allows DDRCC scientists and clinicians to take a holistic approach to the study of digestive diseases. Our integrated core structure supports this approach by centralizing samples and promoting interdisciplinary collaboration. When researchers can see how different aspects of their field interrelate, the result is greater understanding and better outcomes for patients.

Click on the right-hand navigator to find info about the individual diseases we study and the investigators who study them, plus links to related organizations.