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The GEM Project

Leah Sarich | posted Thursday, Apr 3rd, 2014


Five hundred Albertans are diagnosed with Crohn’s disease each year. But the largest investment in the history of Crohn’s should help researchers find the cause of the disease.

Crohn’s and Colitis Canada and the Helmsley Trust have just announced 10 million dollars to go toward the GEM Project. This project is an international research study lead by Canadian scientists, including a team right here at the University of Calgary. Co-investigator and Gastroenterologist Dr. Gilaad Kaplan says the goal is to understand the genetic, environmental and microbial factors that lead to the development of the disease. Researchers want to recruit five thousand healthy, first degree relatives of someone with Crohn’s disease. They will follow these participants over a number of years knowing that some will develop Crohn’s disease. Researchers will then compare those who acquire the disease with those who didn’t to determine the factors that lead to the development of the disease.

Dr. Kaplan explains once you understand what causes the disease, you can then investigate more effective treatment options and event prevent the disease in the first place.

The research team in Calgary has already recruited 300 participants and with this new money they’re hoping to double that number.

Crohn’s disease is a chronic, inflammatory disease of the bowel that causes pain, diarrhea, bleeding and weight loss. It is often diagnosed in young people in the prime of their life. Dr. Kaplan says the Gem Project is the best bet to help reduce the burden of the disease on patients, their families and our health care system.

For more information on the GEM project and Crohn’s disease visit their website.


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