Research Themes

The Cedars-Sinai Digestive Diseases Research Center's (CSDDRC) main theme is inflammation, as we seek to understand and resolve inflammatory conditions. We divide our efforts into subthemes that focus on the underlying mechanisms that promote inflammation and inform disorders of the gut microbiome, gastrointestinal and liver metabolism, and gastrointestinal and liver injury.

Gut Microbiome


Led by Dr. David Underhill, researchers seek to characterize the gut microbiome using the center's tools and investigative resources, including gnotobiotic animals and organ/microbiome-on-a-chip technologies, to understand the effects of the microbiome on the pathways of inflammatory diseases. This research theme intersects with the resources and aims of the Underhill Laboratory, which is focused on understanding the molecular mechanisms by which specific white blood cells—macrophages and dendritic cells—recognize microbial pathogens and direct inflammation.

Gastrointestinal and Liver Metabolism


Under Dr. Mark Goodarzi's direction, center investigators study the metabolic disturbances of the digestive system and the microbiome and examine how these metabolic disorders promote inflammatory diseases. Dr. Goodarzi's leadership draws on his extensive research and experience directing the Microbiome and Insulin Longitudinal Evaluation Study at Cedars-Sinai, which examines the effects of the gut microbiome and diet on insulin resistance, insulin sensitivity and insulin clearance to establish the causal role of gut microbes in the development of diabetes.

Gastrointestinal and Liver Injury


With Dr. Stephan Targan at the helm, center investigators explore how dysfunction in epithelial cells leads to injury and inflammatory responses. The work is facilitated by state-of-the-art technologies, including genomic and single-cell RNA sequencing, organ-on-a-chip technologies, and cytometry time-of-flight. The research builds on Dr. Targan's work as director of the Cedars-Sinai F. Widjaja Foundation Inflammatory Bowel and Immunobiology Research Institute, which is defining the functional relationships between genes, the environment and the immune response to better understand and treat inflammatory bowel disease.