The Inflammatory Bowel Disease Treatment and Research Center at Boston Children’s Hospital is dedicated to improving the health of children with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis through research on the causes and possible treatments of these diseases. We also seek to better understand rarer forms of inflammatory bowel disease, including IBD in infants and very young children (i.e., very early onset IBD). Our investigators are leaders in the study of IBD and continue to make remarkable discoveries in this field through basic, translational, and clinical research. Laboratory studies shed light on the molecular mechanisms of IBD, while translational and clinical studies allow us to investigate with patient material the cause(s) of IBD, determine patient-specfic approaches to therapy, and to investigate innovative treatment approaches in patients.
The center currently heads several pioneering studies on IBD and participates in a number of other national and international studies. With many studies currently enrolling, eligible patients may have the opportunity to help advance our knowledge of these diseases.
Our focused areas of research include:
- Comprehensive Biobank. We have one of the largest pediatric gastrointestinal (GI) disease biospecimen repositories focused on IBD in the world, comprising a collection of biological samples (including blood, biopsies, stool, and urine) donated by patients with IBD and other GI disorders taken at the time of clinic visits, blood draws, endoscopic procedures, and other surgical procedures. This large, one-of-a-kind biobank — which pairs genetic evaluation with in-depth clinical data — allows our investigators to study specific aspects of IBD, with the goal of providing patients with more targeted personalized treatments.
- Very early onset IBD (VEOIBD). VEOIBD is a severe and debilitating form of intestinal inflammation that is diagnosed in infants and children younger than age 6. This condition has dramatically increased in incidence over the past decade. Patients diagnosed before 6 now make up approximately 5 percent of all pediatric IBD cases. Infantile and VEOIBD often does not respond to traditional therapies or surgery and can be life threatening.
- The Boston Children’s Hospital IBD Center is the lead U.S.-based location for the Very Early Onset Inflammatory Bowel Disease (VEOIBD) Consortium (www.veoibd.org). The consortium is comprised of international pediatric gastroenterologists and scientists located globally who are working together to identify the causes of VEOIBD and develop treatments for children with this spectrum of conditions. To date, collectively, the VEOIBD Consortium has identified seven new monogenic diseases causing or associated with VEOIBD, made definitive diagnosis for more than 180 VEOIBD patients, identified novel therapies for infantile IBD caused by IL10 receptor deficieny, and suggested more than 70 patient-specific definitive therapies.
- Biomarkers of IBD. Biomarkers are measurable characteristics or molecular substances that can indicate a patient’s physiological well being. They can be used to identity the presence of disease or to determine whether a particular treatment is effective. Our investigators are working to identify biomarkers present in blood, biopsies, stool, and salivia samples from IBD patients. Based on this research, we may be able to use these molecular markers in the future to tailor precision therapies to individual patients.
- Microbiome. The microbiome is the collective term for the genetic makeup of all the bacteria, fungi, and other microbes present in the human body. In recent years, the microbiome has become a rich resource for investigations on health and disease. Our scientists are currently studying the role of the microbiome in the development and sustained prevalence of IBD. We are also exploring whether fecal microbiota transplants can help improve these conditions by altering patients’ gut microbial makeup.
- Medical treatments. In addition to offering standard medication regimens approved by the FDA for pediatric IBD, our center is studying the safety and efficacy of several medications currently approved only for adults with IBD, as well as novel therapies that have never been tested in IBD patients of any age group.