Gastroenterology Receives NIH Center Award for Digestive Disease Research Development

For the next five years, a $2.5 million Digestive Disease Research Development Center (DDRDC) grant will provide support for UC San Diego’s nationally recognized digestive disease research program in the Division of Gastroenterology.

The award comes from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which funds only 20 such centers in the United States.

Dr. John M. Carethers“This is historic for our GI Division as well as our surrounding community of collaborators,” said John M. Carethers, M.D., Professor of Medicine and Chief of Gastroenterology, who is principal investigator of the project.

“The award shows how competitive and nationally-recognized our research is within our GI Division and among our collaborators.”

It is the first-ever NIH-funded center for the Division of Gastroenterology, and will be the third active NIH-funded center within the Department of Medicine.

The other two are the Division of Endocrinology & Metabolism’s Diabetes and Endocrinology Research Center in conjunction with UCLA, and the Division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Immunology’s Rheumatic Diseases Core Center.


“This is historic for our GI Division
as well as our surrounding community
of collaborators”


The UC San Diego DDRDC will be locally known as C-TREAT, Center for Tissue Repair, Epithelial Biology and Inflammation, and Transformation.

Thematically, the Center focuses on the continuum of inflammation to repair to transformation that occurs in digestive tract organs.

“Patients with longstanding ulcerative colitis or hepatitis undergo DNA damage and attempted repair of that damage at the cellular level. When repair is exhausted or fails, transformation towards colon cancer and liver cancer, respectively, can occur,” says Dr. Carethers.

“We need to better understand these processes to control them, and this is a central interest among our Center’s members.”

C-TREAT will provide an organizational structure, equipment and facilities to enhance productivity and encourage collaboration in basic research in digestive diseases, focused on the inflammation-to-transformation theme outlined above.


“This Center will grow our research base
and productivity in digestive diseases”


The Center will have 28 inaugural faculty members supported by three research cores to facilitate basic research and collaboration for the Center’s members. The Center has several core leaders.

  • Dr. Lars Eckmann, Associate Adjunct Professor of Medicine, will lead the Animal Model Core that is focused on the conduction of mouse studies for digestive diseases research.
  • Dr. Joseph Gleeson, Associate Professor of Neurosciences, and Dr. Hui Dong, Assistant Adjunct Professor of Medicine, will lead the Imaging Core that is focused on microscopic and ion imaging.
  • Dr. Carethers will lead a Molecular Pathobiology Core that is focused on gene expression with Dr. Gary Hardiman, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Director of the BioMedical Genomics Microarray Facility (BIOGEM).

“This Center will grow our research base and productivity in digestive diseases, foster new collaborations, and greatly enhance support in particular for our junior faculty members starting their research career,” Dr. Carethers said.

Dr. Carethers is a specialist in colon cancer and is an appointed member of the National Commission on Digestive Diseases, authorized by Congress in 2005 to evaluate the state of digestive diseases research in the United States and highlight areas for support over the next 10 years for the NIH Director.

A researcher in the Cancer Genetics Program at the Moores UC San Diego Cancer Center, Dr. Carethers investigates the causes of tumor development in the colon.

Dr. Carethers was elected to the American Society for Clinical Investigation this year. He was honored in 2006 with the UC San Diego School of Medicine Vice Chancellor’s Award for Mentoring Excellence, and in 2004 with the UC San Diego Gastroenterology Fellows Excellence in Clinical Teaching Award. He joined the UCSD faculty in 1995.

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