Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs) are multifactorial diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, the incidence and prevalence of which have been rising constantly in industrial and newly industrialized countries. The etiology of IBD is unknown but is thought to be a combination of genetic predisposition, environmental factors and a dysregulated immune response to the gut microbiota. Current therapeutic approaches, such as immunosuppressives and biologics, often show severe side effects. Thus, there is an urgent need for the development of new therapies based on improved knowledge of the etiological factors of IBDs.
The goal of the in-house research project is to develop and characterize different IBD animal models for testing new therapies and elucidating mechanisms of pathogenesis. Thus, a model of chronic DSS colitis was established which shows typical symptoms such as weight loss and chronic bloody diarrhea. Moreover, the colon tissue of the animals features a continuous immune reaction with resulting ulcerations. In addition, the bacteria-induced chronic colitis has been established as an alternative animal model for IBDs which mainly focuses on the role of the microbiota in disease pathogenesis and / or as a target for novel treatment strategies. Both models can be used for preclinical studies as well as elucidating IBD pathogenesis and developing new therapies. In the latter case, the focus is currently on evaluating the therapeutic potential of phytochemicals.
We are also performing a functional analysis of the gut microbiota in the chronic DSS colitis model using BALB/c mice, together with the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research UFZ. The goal of this project is to better understand the interactions of the microbiota and the mucosal immune system in IBDs.
Dr. Ulla Schwertassek