Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Investigators: Ji Qiu, Ph.D., Garrick Wallstrom, Ph.D. and Gokhan Demirkan, Ph.D.

Collaborators:Jonathan Leighton, M.D. (Mayo Clinic)

Disease Background

Who gets it?
What are the symptoms?
How do we detect it now?
How is it currently treated?
What are the current challenges?
  • IBD is a family of diseases including Crohn’s disease (CD) and Ulcerative Colitis (UC) that occurs in 1-10 out of every 100,000 people.
  • IBD is associated with fever, bloody diarrhea, severe cramping and weight loss that can be debilitating.
  • IBD is a lifelong disease that may eventually require surgical removal of parts of the intestines
  • Early attention to the disease can prevent some severe outcomes
  • IBD is diagnosed through the observation of inflammatory changes through colonoscopy, stool samples, and biopsy.
  • There is no known cure, but IBD can be controlled with anti-inflammatory and immune system-suppressing medicines. 
  • Occasionally surgery or special diets are necessary.
  • Current blood tests commonly over-diagnose IBD (false positives), cannot easily distinguish between UC and CD, and cannot indicate who will have aggressive disease.
  • Diagnostic tools are desperately needed to readily distinguish among the different forms of IBD and to predict disease course.


Our Approach


Autoimmune diseases arise when the body’s immune system attacks substances and tissues normally present in the body. Examples of autoimmune diseases include inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Patients with autoimmune diseases have identifiable antibodies against microbial and/or human proteins that can serve as potential serological biomarkers in the management of these patients. However, current IBD serologic markers have high false positive rates, which make them inefficient screening tests. Furthermore, these biomarkers cannot distinguish subtypes of IBD such as Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s disease.

We are working to identify markers in the blood using NAPPA that would provide a simple blood test to accurately diagnose inflammatory bowel disease and predict its clinical behavior for better patient management.