Helmsley Charitable Trust Supports UC San Diego to Study Crohn’s Disease

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Helmsley Charitable Trust Supports UC San Diego to Study Crohn’s Disease

Dr. Pradipta Ghosh, Soumita Das, Larry Smarr and Jürgen Schulze—researchers in diverse disciplines at the University of California San Diego — will aim to improve surgical outcomes and therapeutics for Crohn’s disease patients through $4.7 million in new grants from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust. Helmsley’s goal is to find a cure for Crohn’s disease, a long-term pursuit in parallel with improving patients’ lives today.

“UC San Diego is pursuing innovative ideas that align with Helmsley’s goal of advancing precision medicine for Crohn’s disease patients,” said Garabet Yeretssian, director of Helmsley’s Crohn’s Disease Program. “Researchers at UC San Diego are at the forefront of developing more individualized therapeutics for people with Crohn’s disease and improving lives.”

Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory disease of the gastrointestinal tract, the symptoms of which include persistent diarrhea, internal bleeding and chronic pain. In the United States, 201 of every 100,000 individuals suffer from the disease, and these numbers are steadily rising. The incidence and prevalence of Crohn’s disease are increasing rapidly in developing countries, attributed largely to the swift modernization and westernization of society. There is an urgent need to prevent, diagnose early and reconcile the most effective and appropriate treatments for patients.

A $3.5 million grant will allow Ghosh, professor and director of the Center for Network Medicine at UC San Diego School of Medicine, and Das, assistant professor, chief scientific officer and director of HUMANOID Center of Research Excellence at UC San Diego School of Medicine to assemble a transdisciplinary team of cellular, molecular and stem-cell biologists along with computer science engineers, pathologists and gastroenterologists. Together, they will build and validate a stem cell-based “gut-in-a-dish” model of Crohn’s disease, as a “Phase 0” human model before clinical trials.

The stem cells will be derived from intestinal biopsies of patients with the disease and used to reverse-engineer the gut lining. The model will encompass the microbes, immune cells and other complex cell types found in the gut.

“This approach will help us to predict an individual’s response to therapeutics and, thus, personalize treatments—reducing the chances he or she will be prescribed a drug that won’t work or might have negative side effects,” said Ghosh.

“At present, there is no cure for Crohn’s disease, and we believe our cutting-edge stem-cell based disease model will precisely identify effective treatment options, predict the outcome of clinical trials and provide the patients a high quality of life,” said Das...

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