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Former NSF director, water quality expert to speak at University

A former director of the National Science Foundation who is known worldwide for her work in addressing water quality issues will visit The University of Toledo next week as part of the Jesup Scott Honors College Distinguished Lecture Series.

Dr. Rita Colwell was the first scientist to discover cholera can enter a dormant state and lurk in water until conditions are again favorable for it to grow. Her finding opened the door to new research about the link between the natural environment, climate, and the spread of infectious diseases.

Colwell

She is working with the British government on a project to track and better respond to likely cholera outbreaks.

“Dr. Colwell is one of the most influential and well-known life scientists in the world today,” said Dr. Heidi Appel, dean of the Jesup Scott Honors College. “She is a leader not only in her academic discipline, but in pulling people together from many academic disciplines to focus on water quality and interdisciplinary approaches to solve major societal challenges.”

Colwell is scheduled to present a pair of lectures at the University:

• A public presentation of how connections between climate and oceans affect human health on Monday, March 25, at 6 p.m. in Doermann Theatre on Main Campus.

• A technical talk about how next-generation DNA sequencing has revolutionized the study of the relationship between microbial communities and how that new knowledge can be used in diagnostics, drug development, public health and water safety Tuesday, March 26, at noon in Radisson Hotel Suite C on Health Science Campus.

Both lectures are open to the public, but reservations are requested to the technical talk luncheon; go to the Distinguished Lecture Series website.

Much of Colwell’s six decades of research has been dedicated to understanding and preventing cholera outbreaks. Among her many discoveries, she demonstrated how algal blooms, spurred by high nutrient loads and warming ocean waters, increases the population of cholera-carrying zooplankton.

Though Lake Erie’s algal blooms raise concerns of microcystin — not cholera — Colwell’s innovative research methods and multidisciplinary way of developing solutions could prove a helpful roadmap to addressing the problem in northwest Ohio.

“We believe the kinds of tools she’s developed and the way of thinking about interdisciplinary research-based problem solving will be of interest and value to the people in our region who are dedicated to protecting water quality,” Appel said.

Colwell was the first woman to lead the National Science Foundation, serving as director from 1998 to 2004. She was awarded the National Medal of Science in 2006 and the Stockholm Water Prize in 2010.

She has a bachelor’s degree in bacteriology, master’s degree in genetics and doctorate in oceanography. She holds distinguished professorships at both the University of Maryland at College Park and Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Match Day brings joy, excitement as medical students learn their residency placements

Some of Christian Siebenaler’s earliest memories were of his father, a Toledo-area physician, going off to help people.

“It sounds cliché, but since I was 5 years old seeing him go to work every day in his white coat, I knew I wanted to be a doctor,” Siebenaler said.

Kevin Litzenberg showed his match to Ohio State University Medical Center to his fiancee, Shireen Desai, as his brother, Joshua, watched Friday during the Match Day ceremony. Litzenberg will specialize in internal medicine.

He got his own white coat four years ago when he entered The University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences. Now, as he prepares to graduate with his medical degree, he knows he’ll begin practicing right where he wanted.

Siebenaler, who is specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation, was one of 20 UToledo students who paired with the University’s residency program at this year’s Match Day event.

The annual celebration is a seminal event for next-generation physicians. At exactly noon, an eager swarm of fourth-year medical students received envelopes that revealed where they will spend the next three to seven years in residency as they train in their chosen specialties.

“The faculty and staff really look forward to Match Day,” said Dr. Christopher Cooper, dean of the College of Medicine and Life Sciences. “It is an opportunity to see how much the students have grown intellectually and professionally over their four years of intensive training, and where that training will lead them next. Some will stay at UT for their residencies, which is an absolute delight. Others will train in Ohio or elsewhere across the country. For all of our students, we always hope the very best.”

A total of 165 UToledo medical students matched this year. Notably, there was a 33 percent increase in the number of students who matched with UToledo over last year.

Mariah Truscinski was one of them.

Truscinski, who grew up just a couple of miles from Health Science Campus and completed her undergraduate degree at UToledo, matched in emergency medicine. Already involved in community volunteer work, she was thrilled to open her envelope and see she matched with UToledo.

Archit Sahai, left, and Samuel Ivan showed off their letters during the March 15 Match Day ceremony. Sahai matched in pediatrics at Cincinnati Children’s Hopsital, and Ivan matched in urology at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, N.C.

“It was a pretty amazing feeling. It was a little overwhelming, and there were a lot of thoughts about what the future holds, also just pure excitement. I couldn’t be happier,” she said. “I just feel like I’m really connected to this area and wouldn’t want to go anywhere else.”

In all, UToledo’s fourth-year medical students matched in 23 specialties at institutions in 28 states. Forty-four percent of UToledo’s students matched in primary care specialties.

Archit Sahai, who was born in central India, moved with his parents to Cincinnati when he was 3, and became a U.S. citizen in September, matched with the University of Cincinnati in pediatrics.

“There’s a lot of emotions,” he said of Match Day. “You’re anxious, you’re excited, scared a little bit. I probably can’t put words to describe it. As soon as I saw the letters, that’s just pure joy.”

Sahai, whose father is a neurologist at UC, had high praise for both Toledo and the College of Medicine, saying he’d like to return here eventually.

“I’ve never met a more collaborative group of people, whether it’s my classmates or the faculty,” he said. “Everyone genuinely wants everyone to do well here. It’s been an incredible four years. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

Among the other institutions where UToledo students will do their residency work were the Mayo Clinic, Massachusetts General, the University of Michigan and the Cleveland Clinic. Ohio was the most popular state, followed by Michigan, Pennsylvania, California, Indiana and New York.

Watch the Match Day video.

UToledo medical students to learn residency placements at Match Day event

More than 150 fourth-year medical students at The University of Toledo will learn on Friday, March 15, where they will carry out their residencies on the way to becoming attending physicians.

The annual Match Day event is a highly anticipated ceremony for graduating medical students across the country. At precisely noon, UToledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences students will join thousands of students from other medical schools across the country in tearing open envelopes that contain their match.

“Match Day is very exciting for our students and the faculty and staff who support them,” said Dr. Christopher Cooper, dean of the College of Medicine and Life Sciences. “It is the culmination of four years of intense training and now the graduating seniors find out where their next phase of residency training will occur.”

The 2019 Residency Match Reception will begin at 11 a.m. at the Stranahan Theater’s Great Hall. The event is by invitation-only.

Medical students spend months interviewing with hospitals and universities across the country to determine where they want to spend the next three to seven years of their medical training.

Students rank their top institutions, and academic and community-based health systems rank their top student choices. A computer algorithm administered by the National Resident Matching Program then matches students and residency programs together.

Residents are licensed physicians who care for patients under the supervision of attending physicians while they continue to train in their chosen specialties.

Last year, 157 UToledo fourth-year medical students matched into positions in 23 medical specialties.

Celebrated animator/illustrator to speak at Graduate Research Forum

Dr. Janet Iwasa, award-winning artist, will be the keynote speaker at this year’s Graduate Research Forum.

She will discuss “Animated Biology” Thursday, March 21, at 3 p.m. in Collier Building Room 1000A/B.

Iwasa is an assistant professor of biochemistry at the University of Utah and is known for her molecular and cellular visualizations. Her illustrations and animations have appeared in scientific journals including Nature, and Science and Cell, as well as in The New York Times. She is also a 2014 TED Fellow and 2017 TED Senior Fellow.

“Her illustrations and 3D animations have earned her publications in high-impact scientific journals,” said Kelsey Murphy, a member of the Council of Biomedical Graduate Students. “In addition, she will be the first woman keynote speaker [for this forum].”

The event will begin at the Mulford Library Café Wednesday, March 20. Poster presentations will take place from 10 a.m. to noon, then there will be lunch from noon to 1 p.m., with oral presentations taking place from 1 to 4 p.m.

Final presentations will take place Thursday, March 21, from 9:30 to 11:45 a.m. in the Mulford Café, followed by lunch with Iwasa from noon to 1 p.m.

Those who wish to have lunch with Iwasa are asked to RSVP to councilgraduatestudents@utoledo.edu by Friday, March 15.

UT researchers develop new mouse model for Type I diabetes that mimics full scope of the human disease

Researchers at The University of Toledo have found a new way to replicate in lab mice the development and progression of Type I diabetes, a breakthrough that has the potential to reshape how the chronic disease is studied.

An estimated 1.25 million Americans are living with Type I diabetes. While the condition can be managed with insulin, finding a treatment or cure for the disease has been elusive — in part because scientists have not had a reliable animal model that mimics the full scope of human Type I diabetes.

Dr. Shahnawaz Imam, left, and Dr. Juan Jaume display an array of diabetes management tools that patients rely on to control their disease. A new mouse model developed at UT may open the door to research that finds new therapies.

“We see these patients every day. We see them come to the hospital, we see how they struggle,” said Dr. Juan Jaume, professor of medicine in UT’s College of Medicine and Life Sciences, and senior author of the new invention. “Unfortunately, research has been held back because the scientific community didn’t have a good model to study the disease and its progression. Now we do. We have developed a mouse model that is a step forward toward finding a cure.”

The first peer-reviewed study using the UT-developed mouse model was published Feb. 7 in the natural sciences journal Scientific Reports.

In that study, Jaume, who is also chief of the Division of Endocrinology and director of UT’s Center for Diabetes and Endocrine Research, and co-collaborator Dr. Shahnawaz Imam, a senior researcher in the Department of Medicine and an associate member of the Center for Diabetes and Endocrine Research, looked at how a certain protein can influence T-cells in the pancreas to delay the onset of diabetes.

While the study adds to the overall knowledge about diabetes, it is the mouse model that holds the real potential.

In the new model, mice spontaneously develop Type I diabetes and, importantly, the full range of complications experienced by diabetes patients. That allows study of the disease and its natural progression in a way not previously possible.

“Our model is showing exactly the same physiopathology that humans with diabetes suffer,” Imam said. “Our mice are getting eye problems, they are getting kidney problems and also neuropathy. That’s a very important part of this — they have the same human complications that all diabetes patients have, not just those with Type I.”

The laboratory mice were developed through a series of selective breeding experiments and genetic modification that included adding human genes to the mice.

A provisional patent on the Spontaneous Type I Diabetes Mouse Model was filed last year.

Type I diabetes, formerly known as juvenile diabetes, results from an autoimmune attack on cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Without insulin, the body cannot process the sugars in food, leading to dangerously high blood sugar.

Though many species develop diabetes, Jaume said the process of Type I diabetes seems to be unique to humans. And while scientists have frequently used other specially bred mice, including what’s known as the non-obese diabetic mouse, to study diabetes and test treatments, those lab animals don’t mimic the exact human pathophysiology of the disease.

“The existing non-obese diabetic mouse model does not completely resemble the human condition,” Jaume said. “There are more than 125 different therapies that cure Type I diabetes in non-obese diabetic mice. Clinical trials were developed because of that model, but none have worked in humans. Everybody has been searching for a better model.”

Jaume and Imam have been working on their model for more than a decade. It is already showing research promise.

Using the same idea behind CAR T-cell therapy for cancer, in which certain immune system cells are taken from a patient and paired with an artificial receptor that once reintroduced into the body homes in on the tumor, the team is developing cellular therapies for diabetes that use the mice’s regulatory cells to cool down the immune response.

The University also has filed a provisional patent on the treatment method, and Jaume and Imam soon will begin a more in-depth study of its effectiveness.

UT to develop training tool to better care for patients who are homeless

The University of Toledo is developing a virtual reality training to improve Ohio Medicaid providers’ cultural competency and reduce implicit bias as a way to better understand the patients they serve. The virtual reality training focuses on the barriers to health care faced by those without stable, permanent housing.

UT faculty from the College of Medicine and Life Sciences and the College of Health and Human Services will conduct interviews and observe interactions in an area homeless shelter to build a realistic portrait of the health-care struggles experienced by individuals who depend on urban homeless shelters for their housing.

A multidisciplinary team from UT is building a virtual reality training program to help Ohio Medicaid providers better treat patients without stable, permanent housing. The investigators are, from left, Dr. Thomas Papadimos, medical director and associate dean for immersive and simulation-based learning; Dr. Shipra Singh, assistant professor of health education and public health; Dr. Lance Dworkin, professor and chair of medicine; and Dr. Scott Pappada, assistant professor of anesthesiology and bioengineering.

From that data, faculty and staff from the College of Medicine and Life Sciences, the School of Population Health in the College of Health and Human Services, and the Jacobs Interprofessional Immersive Simulation Center will create an interactive experience that will electronically place clinicians into a model homeless shelter as fly-on-the-wall observers.

“There’s a lot of attention nowadays to how one’s background and social structure impact not only their health, but also how successful they are in using the health-care system,” said Dr. Lance Dworkin, professor and chair of the UT Department of Medicine, and the primary investigator for the project. “If we understand that, we can integrate that knowledge into the care we provide so it’s more effective.”

The University also is building a robust evaluation component into the program that will monitor physical biomarkers such as heart rate, blood pressure and respiratory rate while participants are engaged in the simulation. Using assessment software developed by Dr. Scott Pappada, UT assistant professor of anesthesiology and bioengineering, and a co-investigator on the project, researchers will collect data before and after the simulation to learn how the program affects clinicians and whether it helps them connect with individuals who are marginalized by society.

The project is funded by a $1.24 million grant from the Ohio Department of Medicaid.

UT’s work is part of a larger partnership between the Ohio Department of Medicaid and Ohio’s medical schools, administered by the Ohio Colleges of Medicine Government Resource Center. Like many projects managed by the center, the Medicaid equity simulation project is aimed at reducing health disparities, addressing the social determinants of health, and improving patient care and health outcomes for Ohio’s Medicaid population.

During the course of the homeless shelter simulation, health-care providers will see rudimentary sleeping quarters, dining and social areas, observe the interactions between guests and staff, and listen in on conversations gleaned from the real-life interviews.

“The big message here is how does one change clinical decision making based on what is learned about an individual in this environment,” said Dr. Shipra Singh, UT assistant professor of health education and public health, and a co-investigator on the project.

Singh, who is directing the scripts that will be used in the simulation, said those changes could be as simple as not forcing someone who has no access to reliable transportation to go to the back of the line if they’re late for an appointment, or understanding that immediate lifestyle changes may not be possible.

“You need to listen to the patient rather than just look at them and understand the cultural context they’re coming from and what really matters to them,” Singh said.

The program is expected to be ready to launch to Ohio Medicaid providers within The University of Toledo Medical Center in May and disseminated throughout the community by June.

Toledo-born actress to give commencement address

Katie Holmes, an internationally recognized actress, producer and director, will return to her hometown to inspire The University of Toledo graduates at the spring commencement ceremony.

Holmes

The Toledo-born actress who has appeared in more than 30 films and television programs will be the commencement speaker for the undergraduate ceremony Saturday, May 4, at 10 a.m. in the Glass Bowl.

The UT Board of Trustees approved Monday an honorary degree for Holmes, in addition to several other board actions.

Holmes made her feature film debut in “The Ice Storm” in 1997, and her breakout role came a year later as Joey Potter in the television series “Dawson’s Creek,” which she portrayed for six years.

Her film credits include “Go,” “Wonder Boys,” “Batman Begins” and “All We Had,” which is one of several projects in which she served as director and producer. In addition, her Broadway experience includes appearing in “All My Sons” and “Dead Accounts.”

Holmes managed and designed the fashion line Holmes & Yang, with her partner Jeanne Yang from 2009 to 2014, and is the co-founder of the Dizzy Feet Foundation that supports dance education in the United States. Holmes is a graduate of Toledo’s Notre Dame Academy. Her father, Martin Holmes Sr., and brother, Martin Holmes Jr., are graduates of the UT College of Law.

Parazynski

Trustees also approved an honorary degree for Dr. Scott Parazynski, a physician, astronaut and inventor, who will address graduates of the College of Medicine and Life Sciences at its commencement ceremony Friday, May 10, at 4 p.m. in Savage Arena.

Parazynski spent 17 years as an astronaut during which time he flew five space shuttle missions and conducted seven spacewalks. In 2016, he was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame at Kennedy Space Center.

Parazynski trained for a career in emergency medicine and trauma and has applied his expertise in the human adaptation to stressful environments. He is founder and CEO of Fluidity Technologies, a company focused on developing disruptive robotic control devices for everything from drones to surgical robots.

In other business, the Board of Trustees approved a proposal for a new Master of Applied Business Analytics Degree Program in the College of Business and Innovation. The program’s goal is to meet a growing demand for skilled professionals with analytical problem-solving skills who can apply real-time solutions to business problems.

The proposed 30-credit-hour program combines functional areas of business with business analytics courses and would conclude with an internship project or thesis. The proposal next will be submitted to the Ohio Department of Higher Education. With approval, the program would start by fall semester 2020.

Also approved by trustees were housing and meal plan rates for the upcoming academic year for continuing and incoming students who are not in the current cohort of the Toledo Tuition Guarantee Plan. Dining rates will increase 2.8 percent, with a maximum of $4 more per week depending on the meal plan selected, and housing fees will increase an average of 2.9 percent, which represents an increase of up to $19.60 per week. The new housing and dining rates will help to cover increased costs of operations.

A new collective bargaining agreement with The University of Toledo Police Patrolman’s Association (UTPPA) also was approved by the trustees. The agreement, which runs from Jan. 1, 2019, through Dec. 31, 2021, was ratified by the union Jan. 9. There are 26 employees represented by the UTPPA who will receive wage increases of 1.8 percent effective Jan. 1, 2019, 2 percent effective Jan. 1, 2020, and 2.2 percent effective Jan. 1, 2021.

Health Science Campus Artist Showcase to open Feb. 18

The 14th annual Health Science Campus Artist Showcase will take place from Monday, Feb. 18, through Wednesday, April 10, on the fourth floor of Mulford Library.

This year’s exhibit features work from more than 30 artists who are students, faculty and staff in the health sciences from Health Science and Main campuses, as well as UT Medical Center.

On exhibit will be a variety of 2-D and 3-D artwork, including paintings, drawings, photography, sculpture and mixed media.

An artist reception will be held Friday, Feb. 22, from 4 to 6 p.m. on the fourth floor of Mulford Library.

Dr. Paul Brand, UT associate professor emeritus of physiology and pharmacology, will speak at 4:30 p.m. at the reception. His talk is titled “Create Your Own World.”

“I paint and draw first for the simple pleasure of putting color on paper, and then to create paintings that stand out because they fuse realistic images and strong abstract designs,” Brand said.

A longstanding participant in the Health Science Campus Artist Showcase, Brand paints diverse subjects, most often landscapes, but also still-life and abstracts, using watercolors, acrylics, pastels or charcoal. He has four works in this year’s exhibit.

“I love watercolors for their luminous, fresh appearance, acrylics for their immediacy and simplicity, pastels for their intense colors and ease of application, and charcoal for the range of values and richness,” he said.

For the past two decades, paintings by the award-winning artist have been featured at several juried shows. In addition, Brand has taught art classes at the Toledo Botanical Gardens, Toledo Museum of Art and Art Supply Depo.

Like the exhibit, the reception and lecture are free and open to the public. Visitors can view the artwork during regular library hours: Monday through Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to midnight; Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sunday from 9 a.m. to midnight.

For more information, visit the University Libraries website or contact Jodi Jameson, assistant professor and nursing librarian at Mulford Library, and member of the artist showcase committee, at 419.383.5152 or jodi.jameson@utoledo.edu.

UT researcher awarded $792,000 grant to further work on new way to detect early-stage breast cancer

Without treatment, more than 40 percent of precancerous breast lesions could develop into invasive breast cancer.

But what if scientists could more accurately predict which lesions are likely to become cancerous, or better yet, provide women a way to prevent the lesions from forming in the first place?

Dr. Saori Furuta, front left, received a $792,000 grant from the American Cancer Society to study precancerous breast lesions with her team, from left, Dr. Xunzhen Zheng, postdoctoral researcher;
Dr. Gang Ren, graduate student in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics; Matthew Bommarito, research technician; and Joshua Letson and Yashna Walia, graduate research assistants.

Dr. Saori Furuta, assistant professor in the Department of Cancer Biology, believes that might be within reach.

Furuta has spent years exploring the role nitric oxide plays in the development of precancerous lesions. Nitric oxide is a signaling molecule produced throughout the body, and abnormal levels of it in mammary cells has been implicated in the formation of early-stage cancer.

Now Furuta is investigating how nitric oxide, in its proper concentration, can suppress tumors from forming, and whether its abnormal concentrations might be able to be used as a biomarker that identifies women with or at risk of developing early-stage cancer.

“We have made great progress in diagnosing and treating breast cancer, but it remains a lethal disease. One in eight women will get breast cancer during her lifetime, making it the second leading cause of cancer death among women,” Furuta said. “The hope is that this study will not only advance our understanding of the cause of breast cancer, but also contribute to the development of new approaches to prevention and early detection methods. Taken together, those methods could save lives.”

Furuta’s research is being funded by a multi-year $795,000 research grant from the American Cancer Society. The study was one of 74 funded earlier this year by the American Cancer Society across the United States.

“Dr. Furuta’s goal in finding the causes of precancerous lesions could further the progress in breast cancer prevention and treatment, helping to save lives,” said Sarah Wells, executive director of the Northern Ohio American Cancer Society. “This new research grant at The University of Toledo is just one example of how the American Cancer Society is leading the fight against cancer with the support of our local community and partners.”

Furuta has already examined the link between abnormal — too high or too low — levels of nitric oxide and mammary tumor formation. This research will take that prior work a step further by investigating the mechanisms by which a normal level serves to protect breast cells.

To do that, Furuta’s lab will use a mouse model in which tumor-promoting genes have been altered so they would not be affected by nitric oxide. Researchers will be able to test whether those specific genes produce mammary tumors, similar to how they do when nitric oxide levels are abnormal.

Lab tests also will be conducted on normal human breast tissue, as well as tissue from different stages of cancer to determine how the level of nitric oxide changes as cancer develops and progresses.

“Ultimately, we want to test whether proteins secreted in the blood and urine are also modified by nitric oxide and whether such analyses could be utilized in biological tests to diagnose breast cancer,” Furuta said. “Since there is no such diagnostic test available for many types of cancers, this would be a breakthrough.”

The grant from the American Cancer Society was preceded by an anonymous $50,000 gift from one of the members of The University of Toledo Medical Research Society to begin preliminary research.

“Utilizing the donation, we finished some of the critical experiments and re-sent our proposal,” Furuta said. “Without the generous support, this would have been impossible.”

UT research looks at fiber as a trigger and cure for inflammatory bowel disease

New research from The University of Toledo’s College of Medicine and Life Sciences may give patients suffering from inflammatory bowel disease a better roadmap for managing their symptoms by changing the type of fiber they eat during flare-ups.

Because there’s no cure for the chronic condition, patients living with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis — the two most common types of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) — often rely on anti-inflammatory or immunosuppressive drugs and careful diet planning to manage their symptoms, said Dr. Matam Vijay-Kumar, the senior author on the study and director of the UT Microbiome Consortium and associate professor in the UT Department of Physiology and Pharmacology.

Research conducted by Dr. Vishal Singh suggests foods high in the dietary fiber pectin, found in apples and extractable from orange peels, may help individuals with inflammatory bowel disease.

But even that can seem like guesswork.

“IBD can be a debilitating condition and its prevalence is on the rise. For IBD patients, there has been a puzzling question of why they report poor tolerance to certain types of dietary fibers,” said Dr. Vishal Singh, a Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation Fellow mentored by Vijay-Kumar at UT.

“For healthy people, dietary fibers are good,” he said. “But when it comes to the IBD patients, not all-natural fibers are created equal; thus, their metabolism is distinct. We wanted to understand why.”

In a study published last month in the gastroenterology journal Gut, a team of UT researchers demonstrated a diet rich in pectin or pectin-derived fibers may be a better alternative to the prevailing dietary fiber guidelines aimed at helping patients improve their IBD symptoms.

The study also confirmed that inulin and inulin-like fiber exacerbated colitis in lab mice.

Inulin and pectin are two of the most common refined fibers added to processed foods as a way to add texture and boost their health appeal. Both are indigestible soluble fibers, Vijay-Kumar said, but they require different bacterial enzymes to be broken down in the gut into short-chain fatty acids.
“Many patients try to avoid fiber,” said Singh, the study’s first author. “However, the research shows it’s not about reducing fiber in general, but getting the right kind into your system.”

Singh and his fellow researchers said the finding could assist patients in developing a better diet for managing or preventing flare-ups.

“Following strict dietary guidelines is not new for IBD patients. Physicians often recommend patients limit or avoid a group of foods that contain fermentable carbohydrates, commonly known as the low-FODMAP diet,” Vijay-Kumar said. “Pectin is not included in that diet, but our research shows it brings a clear benefit.”

The study was supported by the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, and the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health.

In the study, researchers examined the role played by bacteria that naturally reside in the gut. They demonstrated that inulin promoted accelerated growth of one particular harmful bacterial strain, while pectin did not.

They also found that a brief period of fasting may boost the body’s production of a physiological inflammation inhibitor that can protect against the inflammatory reaction caused by the gut bacteria processing inulin.

“For me, this study connects very well from bench to bedside,” Singh said. “If an IBD patient is noticing complications after eating some type of food, they can look to see if it is rich in inulin or inulin-type fibers. If it is, they can switch to foods enriched with pectin.”

Pectin is found naturally in a variety of foods, including apples. It also can be derived from other natural sources, such as orange peels, and used as a food additive.

Though the study looked only at pectin and inulin, the team hopes to conduct similar studies on a wide variety of dietary fibers present in processed foods with the goal of learning more about how different types of fiber cause or reduce colonic inflammation.