2018: New Research and Treatments for Digestive, Liver Diseases
Experts Deepen Understanding of Gut Microbiome and Other Digestive Diseases
"We have found that many of our discoveries are helping grow the pipeline of novel diagnostics and therapeutics available to patients here and around the world,” said Mark Pimentel, MD, director of the Medically Associated Science and Technology (MAST) Program. “This includes advances in early diagnosis and treatment of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that are being fueled by new genetic research and interdisciplinary approaches to managing the disease.”
Highlights from Cedars-Sinai’s programs in digestive and liver diseases over the course of 2018 include:
- Program Ranked Third in the Nation: The Cedars-Sinai gastroenterology and gastrointestinal (GI) surgery program was ranked as the No. 1 such program in California, and the No. 3 program nationwide by U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Hospitals 2018–19.”
- Initiative Created to Accelerate Drug Development: Cedars-Sinai launched an initiative to accelerate the development of novel drugs, devices and therapies aimed at improving treatments for patients with gastrointestinal and metabolic diseases. Physician-scientists and others in the Medically Associated Science and Technology (MAST) Program are focusing their research expertise on disorders of the microbiome.
- Researchers Explore Role of S-adenosylmethionine: Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which is caused by the buildup of fat in the liver, is the nation’s most common liver disease, affecting as much as 30 percent of the population. That buildup of fat can lead to inflammation and damage, known as non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), and ultimately cirrhosis, or scarring, of the liver, which can be life threatening.
- Research Identifies Gut Gas Linked to Diarrhea: Investigators identified a gas produced in gut that could improve the diagnosis and treatment of patients with two common intestinal illnesses—small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
- Gender differences in inflammatory bowel disease: Researchers identified gender-specific associations in patients with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, the two most prominent forms of IBD. The results of the genetic research suggest a closer look at gender may provide important insights into the severity with which IBD develops in male and female patients.
- “Creeping Fat” around intestines of IBD patients: Most Crohn’s disease patients develop what is known as “creeping fat” around sites of inflammation in the intestines. In a study of the make-up and behavior of “creeping fat,” investigators found that specific gut bacteria migrate to the fat tissue outside of the gut and stimulate that area of fat to grow. While this process may initially be a protective response to wounds in the intestine caused by Crohn’s, the extra fat can eventually cause fibrosis, making the disease worse.
- Mobile Health and Food Symptom Tracker: Researchers tested a new questionnaire called the Food and Symptom Tracker (FAST) and successfully validated it against existing measures. The findings suggest that FAST can be used as part of digital health apps for patients to more accurately track their food-specific gastrointestinal symptoms.