Intestinal Health and Nutritional Research
The Center for Intestinal Health & Nutrition Support is committed to improving nutritional care through basic research translated into clinical practice, and is engaged in several ongoing research studies:
- The effect of different types of surgical anastomotic reconstructions on long term intestinal function and clinical status, with a specific focus on end-to-end anastomosis vs. side-to-side anastomosis
- The relationship between diet, colonic bacterial flora, and colon cancer, specifically among native Africans compared to African Americans
- The relationship between diet, colonic bacterial flora, and colon cancer, specifically among native Americans in Alaska
- Strategies to prevent central line associated blood stream infections using enhanced catheter cleaning protocols in patients requiring long-term parenteral nutrition in the home
- Strategies to rescue digestive function and nutritional status in the setting of excessive weight loss following gastric bypass surgery
- Using healthcare charge trajectories to phenotype patients on long-term parenteral support
- Prospective investigation of vitamin D and nutritional status in the long-term outcome of patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD; Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis)
- Prospective investigation of dietary fiber, fruit, fat, sugar, and emulsifiers and long-term natural history in patients with IBD
- Exploration of the interactions between pancreatic exocrine function and dietary intake, with particular reference to interventional tube feeding and intravenous feeding in the management of acute pancreatitis
- Investigation of changes in mucosal function in patients with massive intestinal loss during the 12-month post-resection adaptive period.
- Developing prognostic biomarkers of IBD severity.
- Characterizing the impact of diet and nutrition on IBD natural history.
- Identification of biomarker patterns to predict development of dysplasia/cancer in IBD.
- Identification of predictive biomarkers to guide therapeutic selection in IBD.
- Comparative effectiveness studies in IBD maintenance therapy.
- Defining the impact of surgical anastomotic technique on long-term clinical outcomes in Crohn’s disease.
- Use of healthcare charge data as a comprehensive phenotype.
- Defining the impact of Clostridium difficile infection on IBD natural history.
- Characterizing extra-intestinal manifestations including anemia and autonomic dysfunction on the natural history of IBD.
- Developing clinical decision support tools to optimize IBD care and implement precision medicine.
Dr. O’Keefe performs translational research into the physiological and pathophysiological responses to feeding and nutritional deprivation. He has received NIH R01 grant support for his studies on the physiological effects of feeding on pancreatic enzyme synthesis in humans with and without disease, the optimal feeding in patients with severe acute pancreatitis, and, most recently, the role of diet, the microbiome and its metabolites in determining colon cancer risk in extreme risk Alaska Native People, high-risk African Americans (AA), and minimal risk rural South Africans (NA). His pivotal study in Nature Communications in 2015 showed that switching the diets of AA and NA (i.e., Americans were given a traditional African diet high in fiber, low in meat and fat, while Africans were given a westernized diet high in meant and fat, and low in fiber) led to profound changes in the colonic microbiome and its metabolome, associated with reciprocal changes in colonic mucosal biomarkers of cancer risk within two weeks. This supports the hypothesis that diet drives colon cancer risk and that it is largely preventable by a high fiber diet. Studies are underway in Alaska to determine whether fiber supplementation will annul the health disparity and extreme rates of colon cancer risk and mortality in Alaska Natives. Finally, Dr. O’Keefe is partnering with the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa to develop the African Microbiome Institute, which he directs, with the goal of studying the ecology of the microbiome through the Faculties of Medicine, Agrisciences, and Plant Biology, with the overarching aim of improving the health of all Africans.
Dr. Phillips’s research interest primarily focuses on pain in chronic pancreatitis, but also includes problems related to acute pancreatitis such as pain, nutrition, and diabetes.