Renewal grant continues inflammatory bowel disease research

Charles O. Elson, M.D., the Basil Hirschowitz endowed chair of Gastroenterology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, has received a $6.8 million program renewal grant from the National Institutes of Health that will extend his research another five years.

Elson studies the reasons otherwise normal circumstances in the gut develop into diseases such as Crohn’s and colitis. Over millennia, the human body has co-evolved with bacteria that aid digestion and provide many health benefits. “We are trying to understand how the immune system lives at peace with these organisms most of the time, but when it goes wrong we end up with inflammatory bowel disease,” Elson says. “Our central hypothesis is that inflammatory bowel disease is due to an abnormal immune response.”

Casey Weaver, M.D., is co-principal investigator on the grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. The Weaver and Elson labs use a mouse model to study a subset of cells, called Th17, which are known to cause colitis.