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Chey Research Group

Functional gastrointestinal disorders or FGIDs affect more than a third of the US population. These conditions, though not associated with cancer or increased mortality, significantly reduce quality of life and work productivity. FGIDs also lead to billions of dollars in health care expenditures on an annual basis. Of the FGIDs, the irritable bowel syndrome or IBS is the most common. IBS is defined by the presence of typical symptoms, including abdominal pain and altered bowel habits (constipation, diarrhea, or a mixture of both).

In the past 20 years, we have made significant strides in diagnosing and treating patients with IBS. Our understanding of the underlying causes of IBS symptoms has grown at a remarkable rate. Particularly notable is the transition of our thinking of IBS as a primarily psychosomatic condition to one that results from a complex interplay between external factors like food and stress, genetic factors, gut factors like the microbiome, immune activation and permeability, and brain factors like mood and pain processing.

This increase in knowledge has led to a paradigm shift in the treatment of IBS patients. Twenty years ago, doctors and scientists would have scoffed at the suggestion of treating an IBS patient with the low FODMAP diet, probiotics, or antibiotics. Yet, in 2017, such treatments are effective, evidence-based options for IBS patients. Though we have made incredible strides in the laboratory and the clinic, we still have a long way to go. In the coming years, our group will work tirelessly to stay true to the mantra: “Lead not follow”.

1. We will create and/or validate more holistic management models which incorporate not only medications but also diet and behavioral strategies.

2. Through research conducted by our group and collaborations with other academic institutions and industry partners, we will identify biomarkers which will move the diagnosis of patients with FGIDs beyond symptoms alone. The ultimate goal is to accelerate the evolution of clinical care from the current model which relies almost exclusively on symptoms to choose a treatment for a patient to a “precision medicine” model in which the choice of therapy will be based upon symptoms combined with biomarkers, which will utilize genetics, microbiome, and metabolomics, to choose the right therapy for the right patient.

3. We will leverage technology to transform the way that doctors and patients interact and learn from one another. Using novel eHealth platforms, we will utilize big data to transform the clinical care landscape from empirical to precision medicine.

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