New findings reveal how microbiome is disrupted during disease flare-ups

A study led by researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard is the first to observe the complex set of biochemical and molecular events that disrupt the microbiome and trigger immune responses during flare-ups of inflammatory bowel diseases, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

The findings were published in the journal Nature, with the research funded in part by NSF’s Division of Biological Infrastructure.

While previous studies followed microbial changes during IBD, the scientists in this study developed a unique biotechnology toolbox to understand why microbiomes change in IBD and how this provokes an unhealthy inflammatory reaction. These tools allowed the researchers to track microbial chemical changes and human gene regulatory shifts, potentially leading to new therapies.

“The results pave the way for early detection of upcoming flares in disease activity — which can then be aggressively treated — and potentially for new biochemical therapeutic opportunities to encourage complete remission of IBD,” said Curtis Huttenhower, a computational biologist at the Harvard Chan School and the Broad Institute, and senior author of the study.

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