Jacobson Lab

Dr Kevan Jacobson

Dr. Jacobson, MBBCh, FRCP, FRCPC, AGAF, is an Associate Professor and Senior Clinician Scientist in the Department of pediatrics and Child and Family Research Institute at BC Children’s Hospital. Dr Jacobson is involved in bench to bedside research examining potential mechanisms involved in the etiopathogenesis of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) which includes Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis and the development of potential therapies.

Dr. Jacobson obtained his MD degree in South Africa in 1984, his FRCPC in 1991 and his gastroenterology degree in 1993. Dr. Jacobson completed his research training in IBD under the supervision of Dr. Stephen Collins at McMaster University’s Intestinal Disease Research Program in 1996. Dr Jacobson joined the pediatric division of gastroenterology at McMaster University Centre in 1996 and transferred to BC Children’s hospital in 1999.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a chronic, relapsing inflammatory disorder of the GI tract that affects approximately 170,000 individuals in Canada, with 20-25% diagnosed in childhood or adolescence. Epidemiologic studies suggest increasing incidence and changing disease phenotype in the Western world. The underlying etiology remains elusive since there are a variety of putative pathogenetic mechanism and variable time intervals between exposure to a putative trigger and onset of clinical disease. It is presently hypothesized that IBD develops in genetically susceptible individuals as a result of an abnormal response to intestinal microflora. Genetic susceptibility might be expressed as altered function of the intestinal epithelial barrier or a defective/ dysregulated immune system. Our work in the laboratory is focusing on the role of the epithelial barrier in intestinal inflammatory disease and potential modifiers including diet (probiotics, polyunsaturated fatty acids), enteric pathogens and enteric neuropeptides.

In our clinical studies we have demonstrated that the South Asian pediatric population of BC has amongst the highest incidence of IBD in pediatrics. Further studies will examine the role of early dietary experience and epithelial barrier dysfunction in the etiopathogenesis of IBD in this population.

Dr. Victoria Conlin

Dr Victoria Conlin, PhD, is a full-time Research Associate who joined Dr Jacobson laboratory in January 2008. Dr Conlin was granted her PhD from the Department of Physiology at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in England. Her PhD research, under the direction of Drs Nic Simmons and John Kirby involved the investigation of lymphocyte-mediated control of the respiratory epithelial barrier. Following her PhD, Dr Conlin worked as a post-doctoral fellow under the supervision of Dr Alison Buchan examining the effect of Helicobacter pylori on gastric epithelial cell function. Dr Conlin is investigating the therapeutic effects of Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide (VIP) during Escherichia coli (E. coli) infections. E. coli is a prominent bacterial infection transmitted via tainted food and water supplies that causes gastrointestinal (GI) infections in both first and third world countries. There were 1,038 cases of pathogenic E.coli infections in Canada in 2004 alone. Current research indicates that even transient pathogenic E. coli infections can trigger serious health problems months or years after the initial infection. There is a higher incidence of IBD post-infection, suggesting that protecting against infection is important to maintaining health. While prevention of infection is the ultimate goal, development of alternative therapies to treat infections is also important. The use of antibiotics for enteroheamorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) infections is problematical due to the increasing number of antibiotic resistant strains and their use worsens symptoms due to the release of toxins from dying bacteria. We are investigating the control mechanisms of epithelial permeability in the colon. Since IBD may be caused by a chronic bacterial infection and alterations in epithelial barrier integrity, these studies may help define the mechanisms that lead to IBD. The goal of our current studies is to understand how E. coli weakens the epithelial barrier and identify protective treatments to shield against the bacterial toxins.

Dr. Xiujuan (Shelley) Wu

Dr. Xiujuan (Shelley) Wu, PhD, is a Research Assistant in Dr. Jacobson’s laboratory. Dr Wu obtained her PhD degree at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in China in 2004. Thereafter Dr Wu immigrated to Canada where she completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship in IBD in Dr. Jacobson’s laboratory. Under the direction of Dr. Jacobson, Dr. Wu studied how probiotics such as S boulardii ameliorate the disruption in intestinal epithelial barrier integrity induced by enteric pathogens. Dr. Wu is presently examining the interactions between, enteric pathogens, the epithelial barrier and the enteric nervous system (which controls all physiologic functions of the GI tract including the epithelial barrier). Our preliminary results demonstrate that the submucosal neuropeptide vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) when given in pharmacologic doses attenuates barrier disruption associated with Citrobacter rodentium-induced colitis. Dr Wu’s current studies are to understand how VIP enhances barrier integrity in murine models of IBD and to develop novel therapies aimed at enhancing barrier integrity and minimizing inflammatory disease.

Chuanbin (Ben) Dai

Chuanbin (Ben) Dai is pursuing a PhD in Experimental Medicine at the University of British Columbia in the Jacobson lab, commenced in 2005. He obtained his Medical degree at the Tongji Medical University in Wuhan, China in 1993 and a Master of Science in Beijing, China in 2000. From 2000-2005, Chaunbin worked at the Institut de Biologie Structurale in France studying antigen delivery via viral vectors, and then at the University of Washington, USA in the development of HIV vaccines. On joining Dr Jacobson’s laboratory, he has begun to examine the role of maternal dietary n-6 and n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) on development of intestinal barrier integrity and mucosal responsiveness to an inflammatory insult in offspring rats. He is currently examining the mechanisms underlying the short and long term effects of maternal PUFA intake on offspring intestinal epithelial barrier structure and function. Such studies will increase our understanding between early dietary experience and later onset of intestinal inflammatory disease, a relationship considered to be important in the increasing incidence of inflammatory disease in the Western world.

Dr. Azita Hekmatdoost

Azita Hekmatdoost, MD who is pursuing a PhD at Tehran University joined Dr Jacobson’s laboratory in 2007 for completion of her studies. Dr Hekmatdoost obtained her MD at Tehran University of Medical Sciences in 2002 and started her PhD in nutrition in 2005. Dr Hekmatdoost is examining the role of polyunsaturated fatty acids in modulation of the intestinal inflammatory response in Citrobacter rodentium-induced colitis.

Should you be interested in joining the Jacobson Team please send your application via email to ssangha2@cw.bc.ca