Uncovering the Cause of Immune-Mediated Bowel Disorders
We normally think of our bowels as responsible only for the digestion and absorption of the food that we consume. Actually, the intestinal tract is also faced with the enormous responsibility of defending us against hordes of microbial agents, foreign allergens, and environmental toxins.
In order to serve as a barrier to these potentially noxious agents, the gut is equipped with its own mucosal immune system. These specialized cells are capable of "tolerating" the favourable bacterial flora and food antigens in our gut lumen, while at the same time as protecting us from the pathogens and noxious agents that could harm us.
Unfortunately, the gut mucosal immune system is capable of turning against us, resulting in "autoimmune" disorders such as Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, and celiac disease. These immune-mediated chronic inflammatory bowel disorders affect a considerable percentage of the population, people of all ages and backgrounds, causing enormous suffering and disability. Every year, more people suffer these disorders, at an earlier age.
Canada Research Chair Dr. Ernest Seidman believes his research into what goes on to cause the bowel's mucosal immunity to break down will significantly improve the health of many of these people. Along with his multidisciplinary team of researchers and clinicians, he studies the complex interactions between susceptibility genes and environmental interactions that result in the clinical expression of chronic inflammatory bowel disorders. To carry out their research, these scientists employ a variety of complementary approaches, including cell and molecular biology and animal models of colitis, as well as genetic and epidemiological approaches, using patients and their families.