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The University of Chicago Medicine - Comer Children's Hospital

Research and Clinical Trials

In addition to providing the highest level of care for patients with inflammatory bowel disease, our physicians are actively involved in basic, clinical and translational research. Our diverse research projects include clinical studies of new treatments, laboratory studies of the underlying mechanisms of IBD and long-term observational studies. Some of our current studies focus on:

  • Safety and efficacy of new treatments for IBD
  • Adherence and outcomes in IBD management
  • Genetic research, including studies of families who have multiple generations affected by Crohn's disease and/or ulcerative colitis
  • Ethics and feasibility of fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT)
  • The relationship between growth and inflammatory bowel disease


The goal of our research is to help identify the cause(s) of inflammatory bowel disease in order to develop more effective treatments and, ultimately, to find a cure. Through our collaborative studies, we work to discover new mechanisms that cause IBD, as well as evaluate drugs that will lead to expansion of the therapeutic options for children and adolescents young adults. Many of our patients participate in our research studies, which include clinical trials of new treatments for Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.

Dr. Kirsner's Legacy

A member of the University of Chicago faculty for more than 75 years, Joseph Kirsner, MD, PhD, transformed the field of gastroenterology and was instrumental in advancing knowledge of inflammatory bowel disease. Dr. Kirsner started studying Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis in the late 1930s. Throughout his career, he researched possible causes and effects of IBD. In addition to demonstrating the role of genetics in IBD, recognizing the increased risk of colon cancer in patients with IBD and emphasizing the role of nutrition in disease management, he established a new standard of patient care and pioneered new treatment options.

Learn more about Dr. Kirsner's life and legacy.

Innovations in Research and Patient Care

The University of Chicago Medicine continues to be at the forefront of research and innovation in inflammatory bowel disease. In 2001, a team of researchers from the University of Chicago and the University of Michigan identified the first genetic abnormality that increases the risk of Crohn's disease. This gene -- Nod2 -- is involved in the immune system's initial response to bacterial infection. As a result of the discovery, physician-scientists continue to gain more insight into the relationship between genetics, bacteria and immunity in IBD. Chicago researchers also have contributed to the development of new clinical protocols for inflammatory bowel disease. Working as part of a large-scale trial, our researchers helped to determine that infliximab (a biologic therapy) can prolong remission in pediatric patients with moderate to severe ulcerative colitis. In addition, the University of Chicago team found that early introduction of biologic therapy can improve Crohn's disease outcomes.

Our research team remains committed to studying the underlying mechanisms of IBD in order to help identify more effective treatments.