The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust has announced grants totaling $5.2 million to the Australasian Gastro Intestinal Research Foundation and the Chinese University of Hong Kong to study environmental factors that influence the development of inflammatory bowel diseases in Asia.
The three-year grants will support researchers affiliated with the ENIGMA (Eastern Inflammatory Bowel Disease Gut Microbiota) consortium working to identify microbial organisms and related dietary factors that contribute to the development of Crohn’s disease, one of two major forms of IBD and a lifelong disabling condition. Rates of Crohn’s in Australia are among the highest in the world, while rates in the developing world have been rising rapidly, especially in China. By analyzing the factors that cause Crohn’s disease across different populations, the consortium hopes to better understand how environmental factors affect the disease and begin to develop dietary and bacterial modification therapies.
"By pinning down dietary and bacteria changes that are most important, we may have a shot at preventing new cases and slowing the global rise of Crohn’s disease," said Siew Ng, professor of gastroenterology and hepatology at CUHK, which leads the consortium with St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne and the University of Melbourne. "It will have a real impact on our communities challenged by this chronic disease."
"The bugs in the gut and the food that we eat are likely to be fundamental to the development of Crohn’s disease," said Michael Kamm, AGIRF professor of gastroenterology. "This scientific and clinical platform of experts crosses geographical and ethnic boundaries and offers the prospect of exciting discoveries of immediate relevance to patients."