Three questions for Wouter de Jonge, professor of Experimental Gastroenterology, Amsterdam UMC

1 What is your motivation to participate in this project?

I am interested in the biology of the intestine, and how the bacteria, neurons and other cells and immune systems all work in harmony. I am also motivated to help and solve clinical problems. Crohn’s Disease is an example of a disease that is difficult to explain as it seems like a perfect storm that leads to disease without a clear course. Each patient is different from another. For instance, why are lesions so local, and why is the course and tissue involved always so unpredictable? However, it seemed to me like a devastating disease to have, with sometimes a lot of suffering and little perspective. From a pharmacological perspective the current way to treat patients doesn’t seem to lead to a good solution for everybody. Thus, the strategy for treatment could be improved. With this project, I felt we have a perfect mix of ideas and people to solve this problem. I am also interested in how epigenetics works. As this project also studies this, this is also what motivates me.

2 What do you think is the biggest challenge in this project?

The biggest challenge is to recruit enough patients. And also, to find out whether the design of the study is good enough to show the effect we wish to see, namely that treatment has improved. Some of the biological questions, about the fundamental role of the epigenetic biomarkers, are going to be a challenge. But greatly interesting ones with a high reward, if we get it done.

3 What do you hope this research will bring to the lives of patients with Crohn’s disease?

I hope we can come to a better and more effective treatment, with less complications and side effects. I also hope that new medication can be better tested with our method. Also, I hope our method works in other diseases with even more patients such as Rheumatoid Arthritis and Psoriasis, and maybe even for instance dementia. If this methodology works, the sky is the limit in how important it can be for healthcare.