2022 IFFGD Research Grant

In March 2022, The International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD) awarded one research grant of $30,000 for innovative research related to gastrointestinal disorders.

This grant was made possible through the money raised during IFFGDs 2021 Virtual Walk.  We are very grateful to all of you who participated in this event and donated in support of this research.

Selection Committee

  • William E. Whitehead, PhD, Chair
  • Braden Kuo, MD, MSc
  • Lesley A. Houghton, PhD
  • Darren Brenner, MD
  • Baha Moshiree, MD

We are pleased to introduce you to the grant recipient:

Dr. Judy Nee, Harvard University

Summary of Dr. Nee’s Research


There is a fundamental gap in the understanding of the role of sex hormones in the pathophysiology of abdominal pain in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Androgens, which circulate in both sexes but generally at higher levels in males, have links to both chronic pain and IBS but have been studied almost exclusively in men with this disorder. Women, however, are more commonly affected by IBS. Relatively lower androgen levels in women may increase symptom severity but this has not been well explored. Beyond circulating hormones, another key source of androgens derives from the β-glucuronidase activity of gut microbes, which deconjugate androgen-glucuronides to generate a large pool of active androgens in the colon.


The goal of this study is to identify the specific androgens most relevant to both women and men with IBS abdominal pain and bowel habit. This would be the first study to consider these novel androgenic ligands in IBS and the first to examine fecal sex hormones in this disorder.


We will correlate baseline androgen levels (in both blood and stool) with baseline visceral pain, while statistically controlling for age and sex. Eligible participants will be healthy adults between 18 and 75 years old, and IBS patients meeting the IBS Rome IV criteria with at least a moderate score on the IBS Symptom Severity Scale (≥ 175) at screening. The primary pain outcome measure will be the visceral pain severity measured on a 100-point visual analogue scale. Secondary clinical assessments include bowel consistency, anxiety, and depression. Each participant will provide 2 separate blood samples and 2 separate stool samples. Using a highly sensitive mass, validated spectrometry-based assay, we will measure free (unconjugated) and total (unconjugated and conjugated) 11-oxy C-19 steroids in addition to total testosterone, free testosterone, dihydrotestosterone, sex hormone binding globulin, estradiol, and estrone.

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