Research Priorities

The Center has developed a broad portfolio of research on the mechanisms of functional GI and motility disorders, as well as their psychosocial correlates, health outcomes, and treatment. The Center has had a long history of research support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), pharmaceutical companies, and other sources. Center faculty and investigators have established their own independent research programs and funding. In 2009, the Center’s research activities were supported through $2.3 million in grants and contracts – 49% from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), 40% from pharmaceutical companies, and 10% from foundations and other sources.

The Center’s research programs are multidisciplinary, involving collaborations between gastroenterologists, psychologists, neuroradiologists, urogynecologists, psychiatrists, epidemiologists, physician assistants, and nurses. Within UNC at Chapel Hill, collaborators come from the departments of Medicine, Psychology, Psychiatry, Surgery and Gynecology, as well as the schools of Dentistry and Public Health. Research at the Center includes studies on the pathophysiology and treatment of such prevalent functional GI disorders as IBS, functional dyspepsia, functional abdominal pain, fecal incontinence, and constipation. These disorders greatly impair quality of life and result in aggregate annual health care costs in the United States exceeding $25 billion.

In addition to collaborations with investigators from a variety of disciplines at UNC, the Center has an ever-expanding Research Network of collaborating institutions outside UNC for large-scale, multi-center studies. These strategic alliances have been developed to take advantage of the specialized skills and expertise of investigators at other sites and to increase the pool of research subjects participating in Center studies. The Research Network has benefited from the development of new technologies for web-based data acquisition/sharing and research subject recruitment, as well as a growing library of FGID-related scannable and Internet-based questionnaires in different languages.

In 2004-2009, the Center was awarded a grant (R24 DK067674) from NIH to foster interdisciplinary research on interactions between the mind and body in health and disease, with a specific focus on the causes and treatment of functional GI and motility disorders. The five-year, $4.45 million grant established a Gastrointestinal Biopsychosocial Research Program within the Center and has provided funding for essential Research Resources.