Microbiotic Therapies for IBS

Testing new hypotheses may require more than a good idea – new tools may be needed to answer the research question. That is the case for the clinical study that Purna Kashyap, M.B.B.S., and Dan Knights, Ph.D., are conducting. The team is studying the microbiome of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) patients to identify potential therapeutic targets.

Awarded funding in 2014, the team is conducting a longitudinal study to track changes in the microbiome and correlating the findings with changes in diet and the appearance of symptoms. Dr. Kashyap and Mayo Clinic provide patient population expertise and focus on patient recruitment and initial sample processing. Dr. Knights and the University of Minnesota excel in bioinformatics and have developed a new data analytic tool to handle the abundance of information. They also do the majority of sample processing and data analysis.

The findings of the study will allow physicians to understand what is different in IBS patients and simulate treatment in pre-clinical models. The researchers hope to finish patient recruitment in August and finish data collection by January 2017.  From that point, treatments will be tested in germ-free mice models.

“Science as a whole is becoming highly collaborative, but this field, in particular, requires expertise from many different people,” says Dr. Knights. “This grant has allowed us to setup a collaboration model that we are applying in a number of other projects.”

The initial grant has had a tremendous downstream effect. Dr. Kashyap and Dr. Knights have established a long-term academic collaboration. The pair has begun work on several other projects, including research on predicting recurrence of infections using microbiota and the loss of natural microbiota in non-human primates.

“This would not have been possible alone. I think we have very complimentary skills in what we do,” says Dr. Kashyap. “It has been instrumental in setting up a new paradigm where we are learning to use the strengths of each institution without duplicating what has been done.”