Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a group of inflammatory conditions - including Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis - that affect the colon and small intestine. These diseases affect more than 1 in 500 Americans or more than 550,000 people in the US. Symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea, hematochezia, and weight loss, in addition to other associated problems such as iron deficiency anemia.
The primary treatment for IBD is anti-inflammatory drugs and immunosuppressants (primarily steroids) which in themselves result in intolerable adverse effects. Over the long term, these therapies can be worse than the progression of the disease itself requiring surgical intervention; for example, bowel resection. GI resections are not without their own risk, creating leakage at the site of anastomoses, which prevents proper healing and can also lead to sepsis. These surgical interventions can severely affect a patient's quality of life leaving GI function compromised including incontinence which often necessitates colostomies.
We are developing techniques to detect the regions in the GI tract that are inflamed and to determine the extent of the inflammation. This kind of diagnostic test can not only provide an indication of the progress of the disease, but also enable site specific delivery of drugs, reducing systemic effects.