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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Harvard: New Findings from Human Microbiome Project Reveal How Microbiome is Disrupted During Inflammatory Bowel Disease

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

While previous studies have cataloged microbial changes during IBD, the researchers in this study developed a unique biotechnology toolbox to understand why microbiomes change during IBD and how this provokes an unhealthy inflammatory reaction. These tools allowed them to measure microbial chemical changes and human gene regulatory shifts, potentially allowing for new therapies in the future.

“The Human Microbiome Project overall has been a flagship effort in understanding the microbiome’s contributions to health, and in creating a community of researchers who can study the microbiome to discover new diagnostics and therapies for disease,” said Dr. Curtis Huttenhower, professor of computational biology and bioinformatics at Harvard Chan School and associate member at the Broad Institute and senior author of the study. “Our results from this study pave the way for early detection of upcoming flares in disease activity — which can then be aggressively treated — or potentially for new biochemical therapeutic opportunities to encourage complete remission of IBD.”

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