Dr. Deanna Santer

Establishing 3D gut model analyses to uncover novel immune pathways to target in inflammatory bowel disease

Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) are serious and lifelong, affecting one in 150 Canadians. Current drugs used for IBD do not work in all patients, and they mostly block the immune system. This increases the risk of infection and can cause side effects.

Immune proteins called interferon(IFN)-lambdas are different. IFN-lambdas help gut health in IBD mouse studies, but studies about human IFN-lambdas in the gut are lacking.

We found that the IFN-lambda system does not work properly in people with IBD. This means a key part of the immune system needed for gut health may be missing in IBD patients. A safe IFN-lambda drug already exists for viral infections and could be used in IBD if we find out how it could be helpful.

To study IFN-lambda biology, we need to set up human gut biopsy methods. We can take biopsies during a regular colonoscopy and expose them to IFN-lambdas in the lab, instead of needing to test in animals or people first.

We will find out what kinds of gut cells respond to IFN-lambdas, and how these interactions affect gut health. Our long-term goal is to find out if IFN-lambda pathways can be promoted as a new and safe therapy for IBD to help heal the gut and decrease symptoms to promote remission without suppressing the immune system.