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NIH awards U.Va. $5 million grant to study Crohn's disease

By Suzanne Morris

U.Va. researchers, armed with a $5.1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, hope to pinpoint the genetic factors that lead to Crohn's disease. The five-year grant, from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease, which is part of NIH, will fund a multidisciplinary program to begin to develop a cure for the disease by isolating new treatment targets.

"To date, no one has been able to determine exactly what causes Crohn's disease, and this has limited the ability of researchers to develop successful treatments. We believe genetics play a role, and with this grant we hope to pinpoint these genetic factors. The results of this work may lead to new treatments and an eventual cure for this devastating disease," said Dr. Fabio Cominelli, principal investigator and director of U.Va.'s Digestive Health Research Center.

The grant covers three other projects, directed by Dr. Marcia J. McDuffie, associate professor of microbiology and internal medicine; Dr. Steven M. Cohn, associate professor of internal medicine; and Dr. Klaus F. Ley, professor of biomedical engineering.

Crohn's disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes painful inflammation in the intestines. It can be difficult to diagnose because its symptoms are similar to other intestinal disorders like irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis, Cominelli said. A thorough physical exam and a series of tests are usually required to make a proper diagnosis. According to the Crohn's Disease Resource Center, the disease occurs in about one in 1,500 people, affecting men and women equally, and is typically diagnosed in adolescence or early adulthood.



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