Research Programs


Faculty members in the Section of Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition at The University of Chicago are currently involved in basic and clinical research on many different diseases and disorders. The balance between basic and clinical research is the template for continued success and expansion of current programs. The strength of our research programs is derived from the collaborative research between faculty, fellows, post-docs, graduate students, medical students and college students within the GI Section and with members of the Department of Surgery, Pediatrics and Pathology.

The Section of Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition  maintains approximately 12,000 square feet of research space in the new, state of the art  Knapp Center for Biomedical Discovery. The clinical research facilities are housed in the Logan Clinical Research Center which maintains a registry of over 5,000 patients with inflammatory bowel disease.

Basic Research

The Section of Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition has a long history of basic and clinical research in inflammatory bowel disease. Basic research programs are focusing on: the genetics of inflammatory bowel disease; epithelial cell biology (secretion and cytoprotection), vitamin D metabolism, colon carcinogenesis, mucosal immunology, and celiac disease.

Beginning with the potential genetic underpinnings GI investigators have identified the first genetic mutations predisposing to Crohn’s disease associated with defective signaling by NOD2 preventing activation of nuclear factor kappa B. Further efforts are underway to identify other genetic mutations and their influence on pathogenesis and genotypic phenotypic correlations within the NIH IBD Genetic Consortium housed at The University of Chicago. Dr. Eugene Chang is investigating the role of heat shock proteins in providing cytoprotection of the intestinal epithelium and how commensual bacteria or probiotics provide beneficial, anti-inflammatory properties. Dr. Marc Bissonnette is leading efforts at identifying carcinogenic sequences in animal and human colon cancer and is investigating chemopreventive properties of vitamin D analogues and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents. Dr. Bana Jabri studies the developmental and functional aspects of immune function in the mouse and human intestine involving a family of surface receptors called NKG2 and intestinal disease associated with such a dysregulation of the NKG2 system such as celiac disease. Close collaboration is maintained with Jerrold Turner from the Department of Pathology within the Digestive Disease Research Core Center regarding the immunopathophysiology of celiac disease and epithelial cell tight junctions in health and disease.

Since 1990, the GI Section has been the recipient of an NIH funded Digestive Diseases Research Core Center (DDRCC). The DDRCC, under the direction of Dr. Eugene Chang, includes over 70 investigators in the clinical and basic sciences departments in the Division of Biological Sciences whose goal is to encourage and facilitate research involving digestive disease related research. The DDRCC has three research core laboratories: molecular pathology, molecular biochemistry and cell biology. The DDRCC maintains 10,000 square feet of lab square, of which 7,500 square feet is dedicated as wet bench space.

Clinical Research

The Section of Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition  is home to an internationally renowned clinical research program in inflammatory bowel disease which includes translational efforts to identify genotypic/phenotypic correlations, epidemiology (colon cancer surveillance), environmental factors (e.g. cigarette smoking), and novel therapies for ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. A 5,000 patient data base is maintained by the Section to provide patient material for clinical trials of conventional and novel medical therapies such that over 20 clinical trials are currently underway. Dr. Russell Cohen is undertaking outcomes research regarding cost-effectiveness of therapies for IBD. Drs. David Rubin and Karen Kim are investigating adherence with colorectal cancer screening in high risk and underserved populations and collaborating on chemoprevention trials in IBD and spontaneous colon cancer. Dr. Irving Waxman heads the Interventional Endoscopy program and is developing novel techniques for endoscopic diagnosis and intervention

In addition to the extensive program in inflammatory bowel disease, numerous other areas of clinical research are being pursued. Interventional endoscopy is being applied to diagnosis of esophageal, gastric, pancreatic and colorectal neoplasia and mucosal resection. Hepatology research is being applied to liver transplantation, viral hepatitis and other inflammatory liver disorders. Nutrition research includes the impact of lactose intolerance in minority health outcomes, obesity and celiac disease. Clinical research into optimization of colorectal screening for average and high-risk individuals, genetic counseling and chemoprevention are currently underway.