Dr. Michal Kuczma, a research assistant professor in the Institute for Biomedical Sciences at Georgia State University, has received a three-year, $270,000 Career Development Award from the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation to study environmental influences on gut microbiota, immunity and inflammation.
To investigate the influence of environmental conditions on mouse models of human inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Kuczma and his colleagues created a model system where mice are housed in dirt from their natural surroundings and eat foods they would encounter in the wild (fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts), in a temperature-and humidity-controlled setting with standard caging.
Since the late 20th century, laboratory mice have been a powerful pre-clinical tool for gaining insight into various aspects of human IBD, a chronic inflammatory disorder of the digestive tract. These mice are housed in ultraclean cages and are fed a highly restricted diet composed of processed food pellets. While there are practical advantages to housing mice under such artificial conditions, the lack of exposure to "real world" conditions may hinder the translational potential of using mice to model human IBD.
"Using this novel mouse model system, we will define environment-induced changes in the gut microbiota (bacteria, fungi and viruses) and mucosal immune system, and importantly on the development of intestinal inflammation and colon cancer," said Kuczma, who works in the Institute for Biomedical Sciences' Center for Inflammation, Immunity & Infection.
The Crohn's and Colitis Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to finding cures for Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis and improving the quality of life for children and adults affected by these diseases.
The foundation's Career Development awards are mentored awards to prepare potential basic and translational researchers to transition to a career of independent investigation and research in IBD (Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis).