Children's Researcher Wins Grant From Microsoft Co-Founder's Foundation

Nov 6, 2019

A Cincinnati Children's researcher is one of this year's Allen Distinguished Investigators, receiving a $1.5 million, three-year grant from the foundation of Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen.

Out of all the cells in our bodies - and there are trillions - there are a rare few that control how we absorb and use the nutrients in food.

Professor James Wells studies those. He's a co-director of the Center for Stem Cell and Organoid Medicine and a professor of pediatrics with UC and Children's Hospital Medical Center.

The grant from the Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group will allow Wells and his partners to use stem cells from patients with genetic disorders that affect how their bodies absorb nutrients.

"We'll focus on studying a very, very rare number of people who are born with genetic alterations that cause defects in how these cells operate and how they function," he explains.

"This can be due to people with diseases that affect the intestine like Crohn's and things like that," he says. "It can be due to diseases like obesity when people are also not handling nutrition appropriately and trying to store it rather than use it."

Wells says his team has already cured malabsorption in mice and now want to study it in the human system.

The results could have implications for Crohn's Disease, obesity, malnutrition and more.

"Understanding more about enteroendocrine cells, which produce hormones that regulate our ability to process food, could pave the way for new therapies for malnutrition and diseases like Type 2 diabetes." the Frontiers Group writes in its announcement selecting Wells for the grant.

The money will be spread over three years.

Wells describes the study as an example of how the Center for Stem Cell and Organoid Medicine aims "to move basic studies into more applied human biology."