Xiaolei Tang

Xiaolei Tang will lead a team to examine how vitamin D might be used to develop a restorative therapy for damaged intestines.

Loma Linda University Health has received a more than $430,000 grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health to study ways vitamin D could potentially be used to enhance intestinal wall repair of patients suffering from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). 
 
IBD is a chronic and debilitating disease in human intestines that affects approximately 1.6 million Americans. The number of people affected by IBD is rising worldwide, making it an increasingly global disease in the 21st century. 
 
The grant is for two years with a total of $433,340 in funding.
 
“I am very excited that our idea is supported by the experts in our field,” said Xiaolei Tang, PhD, an associate research professor at Loma Linda University School of Medicine and lead research for the grant. “I hope that this study will eventually benefit patients at Loma Linda University Health and around the world.”
 
U.S. Congressman Pete Aguilar (CA-31) said he was pleased that Loma Linda University Health — which resides in his district — was awarded this grant.
 
“Loma Linda is a national leader in medical research, a major provider of good-paying jobs in our region, and a world-renowned medical center,” Aguilar said. “I’m proud to announce this grant funding, which will allow Loma Linda University Health to conduct groundbreaking new research and continue growing its legacy of innovation.” 
 
Aguilar is a member of the House Appropriations Committee and has been a consistent advocate for NIH funding to make these types of grants possible.
 
IBD is caused by a disordered immune response to intestinal bacteria. Normally, bacteria is contained outside the intestinal wall for food digestion and is prevented from entering other organs. However, this immune disorder can damage the intestinal wall, allowing bacteria to enter into other organs. A vicious cycle starts: bacteria in the internal organs further worsen the immune disorder, which in turn lets more bacteria pass through the gut wall into internal organs. The vicious cycle continues unless the gut wall is completely repaired.
 
No medications are currently available to repair the damaged intestinal wall. Recent research has suggested that, under healthy conditions, vitamin D is a key component for the normal functions of intestinal stem cells. Intestinal stem cells are known to renew the intestinal wall every 5 to 7 days to ensure its integrity. Tang will use the awarded grant to examine if such renewal mechanisms can be harnessed for the repair of damaged intestinal wall. He and his team will determine how vitamin D affects the functions of intestinal stem cells. 
 
The grant award number is R21AI142170.