Most Canadians wouldn’t associate their country with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. But, with 230,000 Canadians living with these diseases—the highest rate in the world—Crohn’s and colitis have been called “Canada’s disease”. Through advocacy and dedicated research, Canada’s ownership of Crohn’s and colitis has extended to our search for a solution. Now, Canada is leading the most advanced Crohn’s and colitis research in the world, with UBC at the forefront.
Since 1980, UBC has partnered with Crohn’s and Colitis Canada to lead discoveries into new treatment options for people suffering with these two diseases. The University’s dedicated scientists have examined the connection between inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract—the key feature of Crohn’s and colitis—and the body’s immune response.
People with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis live with periods of extreme inflammation in their digestive systems that can cause severe pain, cramping, fatigue, and diarrhea. These diseases seriously compromise the lives and livelihoods of those affected, and current treatments aren’t enough. The diseases still do not have a cure and often lead to frequent hospital visits and surgeries to remove damaged tissues. Along with the physical effects of the diseases, patients face barriers to employment, high incidences of depression, and significantly decreased overall quality of life. Canada needs more research to discover the underlying mechanisms of these chronic diseases and to develop more effective treatments.
At UBC, researchers have already expanded our understanding of gastrointestinal inflammation, and now, Dr. Laura Sly, Assistant Professor in the Division of Gastroenterology, and Lisa Kozicky, PhD student, are striving to understand the role of immune cells called macrophages in Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Although macrophages contribute to healthy inflammation that protects our bodies during infection, they become harmful and contribute to unnecessary inflammation in people with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
Recently, Lisa and Dr. Sly have proven that macrophages can be altered to decrease inflammation. Their current aim is to test whether these macrophages can be created or altered within the intestine, for the promise of a minimally-invasive treatment option that enhances lives in BC and beyond.
Lisa and Dr. Sly’s research is funded by Crohn’s and Colitis Canada, a volunteer-based charity established in 1974 to stop the suffering of children and adults with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis and find a cure for the diseases. Crohn’s and Colitis Canada funds leading research across the country, and has supported the training and discoveries of a number of UBC’s most talented researchers.
Along with funding Dr. Sly, Crohn’s and Colitis Canada has recently provided grants to the following professors:
- Dr. Deanna Gibson, Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology, for her work “IBD Risk is modulated through intestinal microbes and dietary fats”,
- Dr. Kevan Jacobson, Associate Professor and Senior Clinician Scientist in the Department of Pediatrics, for his work “Strengthening the epithelial barrier reduces susceptibility to IBD”,
- Dr. Theodore Steiner, Associate Professor and Associate Head in the Division of Infectious Diseases, for his work “Laying the groundwork for T-regulatory cellular therapy for inflammatory bowel disease”,
- Dr. Bruce Vallance, Associate Professor in the Division of Gastroenterology, for his work “Examining the role between inflammatory tissue and protective innate signaling”, and
- Dr. Stuart Turvey, Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics, Division of Allergy and Clinical Immunology for his work “Development of anti-inflammatory nanomedicine for inflammatory bowel disease”.
Further support is urgently needed to progress critical Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis research. As 10,000 new cases are diagnosed each year in Canada alone, your support is invaluable in expanding our research and creating hope for a cure.
November is Crohn’s and colitis awareness month. Visit www.crohnsandcolitis.ca to read about events in your area.
For more information, please contact:
Senior Associate Director, Development
UBC Faculty of Medicine
Crohn’s and Colitis Canada