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UCLA Vatche & Tamar Manoukian Division of Digestive Diseases


Media Highlights 2014

UCLA Health System's Gastroenterology and GI Surgery Specialties Ranked No. 5 in the Nation in U.S. News' Annual Survey

Once again, the UCLA Health System's hospitals in Westwood and Santa Monica have been named to U.S. News and World Report's Best Hospitals 2014-15 Honor Roll. UCLA was ranked No. 5 in the country and No. 1 in both California and the Los Angeles metropolitan area. The annual rankings, now in their 25th year, are the magazine's most exclusive rankings, recognizing hospitals that excel at treating patients who need an especially high level of care. This year's Honor Roll highlights just 17 hospitals out of nearly 5,000 nationwide for their expertise in treating the most challenging patients across a range of medical specialties. Learn more about Gastroenterology and GI Surgery Rankings » | Learn More About UCLA Health System's Rankings »

Media Highlights and Press Releases 2014  



Dr. Sammy Saab UCLA HepatologyDr. Sammy Saab, professor of medicine in the division of hepatology and of surgery, was interviewed Dec. 4 on Sirius XM's Doctor Radio about the hepatitis C drug Harvoni.  



Diet Soda May Alter Our Gut Microbes and Raise the Risk of Diabetes - NPR Segment
Kirsten Tillisch, associate clinical professor of medicine in the division of digestive diseases, was interviewed for a Sept. 17 NPR segment on how diet sodas may alter gut microbes in a way that increases the risk of metabolic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes. Listen »  


Dr. Terri Getzug Familial Mediterranean FeverJewish Daily Forward Focuses on Familial Mediterranean Fever
An Aug. 13 Jewish Daily Forward article covered Familial Mediterranean Fever, a rare hereditary disease that reduces the body's ability to regulate inflammation.  Dr. Terri Getzug, clinical professor of medicine in the division of digestive diseases, who is a specialist on the disease, commented on the difficulty in diagnosing the condition and the importance of disease awareness.  In addition, she commented about issues patients are having in obtaining a key medication due to cost and availability. 

Click here to learn more about the UCLA Familial Mediterranean Fever Program »  


Dr. Harry PothoulakisDr. SAng Hoon RheeUCLA-led study identifies genetic factors involved in pediatric ulcerative colitis
UCLA researchers were part of a team that has discovered the interplay of several genetic factors that may be involved in the development of early-onset ulcerative colitis, a severe type of inflammatory disease.  Read full press release » 



Dr. Kevin Ghassemi, assistant clinical professor of medicine in the division of digestive diseases, commented in a July 13 NBC.com story about sensitivities to milk substitutes. 



Nine UCLA Digestive Disease Physicians Voted Best Doctors in America for 2014
Best Doctors conducts an exhaustive, peer-reviewed survey of the medical profession, polling more than 50,000 doctors across the country. Doctors are asked to provide an assessment of the clinical abilities of their peers within each of the more than 400 subspecialties of medicine. The millions of individual data points collected through this process, after being compiled through algorithms that correct for statistical bias, yields the list of those physicians deemed "best" by their peers. Continuous peer-to-peer surveys help identify specialists who are considered by fellow physicians to be the most skilled in their fields and most qualified for reviewing and treating complex medical conditions. 

Best Doctors objective is to identify the best trained, most experienced and most skilled specialists, regardless of where they practice. Only 5% of the doctors in any country are actually selected to become Best Doctors.

Best Doctors has earned a worldwide reputation for reliable, impartial results by remaining totally independent. Doctors are not paid to complete the survey, and cannot pay to be included in the database.

Top: Left-Right: Lin Chang, MD, Jeffrey L. Conklin, MDFrancisco Durazo, MD, Steven-Huy Han, MDBottom: Left-Right: Dennis M. Jensen, MD, V. Raman Muthusamy, Bennett E. Roth, MD, Bruce A. Runyon, MD and Sammy Saab, MD, MPH 

My GI Health: Reimagining the Dialogue Between Patients and Physicians
Dr. Brennan Spiegel, associate professor of medicine in the division of digestive diseases, was mentioned May 30 in an article by Medical Marketing & Media on My GI Health.  

Helio Highlights Hepatitis C Treatment Research
Helio reported May 28 on research by Dr. Sammy Saab, professor of medicine in the division of hepatology and of surgery, finding that a sofosbuvir-based regimen showed a reduced number of liver disease complications compared with patients receiving other treatments. The findings were presented at Digestive Disease Week 2014.


$4 Million Gift from The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation Benefits Research in Stem Cell Science and Digestive Diseases
Yahoo! News, Westside Today, News-Medical, Century City/Westwood Patch, Examiner, Digital Journal, Stem Cell News, City News Service, WN News.com, Health Medicine Network, Pluripotent: Stem Cell News, and websites for  FOX-TV (Greenville, N.C.),WVNS-TV (Ghent, Va.), WAND-TV (Decatur, Ill.), KWTV-TV (Oklahoma City, Okla.), WGFL-TV (Gainesville, Fla.), WFSB-TV (Hartford, Conn.), KVVU-TV (Las Vegas, Nev.), WFLX-TV (West Palm Beach, Fla.), KFDA-TV (Amarillo, Texas), KQCW-TV (Tulsa, Okla.), WAVE-TV (Louisville, Ky.) and others May 8, Bioresearch Online May 13 and Canyon News May 15 covered two gifts from The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation to UCLA totaling $4 million that will fund UCLA research. The gifts will benefit the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCLA and the Center for Inflammatory Bowel Diseases at UCLA's Division of Digestive Diseases. Dr. Owen Witte, director of the Broad Stem Cell Research Center and Dr. Gary Gitnick, professor and co-chief of the Division of Digestive Diseases, and the Fran and Ray Stark Foundation Chair at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, were quoted. 

Dr. Sammy Saab, professor of medicine in the division of hepatology and of surgery, was quoted April 9 in a Reuters Health story on a study suggesting that a protein called adiponectin that regulates glucose levels and fatty acid breakdown can better predict the risk of atherosclerosis in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease than liver function tests.  


Ivy Ka Man Law, PhD - Recipient of the 2014 GRG/AGA Abstract of the Year Award

Dr. Law received her PhD and MPhil degrees in Department of Pharmacology and Pharmacy and Department of Zoology of the University of Hong Kong respectively. Her MPhil thesis is on the development of mucosal immunity against Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) virus induced by recombinant adenovirus. During her PhD studies, her major focus is on the role of lipocalins in the development of insulin resistance. The other project involved the identification of possible interacting partners of Sirtuin 1 and 3, which play important roles in aging and metabolism.

The post-doctoral research of Dr. Law focuses on neurotensin receptor signaling and neurotensin-induced pro-inflammatory responses in colonocytes. Currently, she is working on a project investigating the role of neurotensin receptor internalization and recycling on the induction of pro-inflammatory responses in colonocytes and the possible mechanisms regulating colonocyte desensitization and re-sensitization.

Colonic MicroRNA-133α promotes neurotensin-associated proinflammatory responses in human colonocytes and experimental colitis.

Ivy Ka Man Law, Kyriaki Bakirtzi, Christos Polytarchou, Hon Wai Koon, Daniel W. Hommes, Dimitrios Iliopoulos, and Charalabos Pothoulakis1

Background and Aims: MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are short non-coding RNAs involved in different pathophysiological functions at the post-transcriptional level. Neurotensin (NTS)/neurotensin receptor 1 (NTSR1) interactions mediate intestinal inflammation and proliferation in vitro and in vivo. We have recently shown that NTS exposure to NTSR1-expressing human colonic NCM460 epithelial cells (NCM460-NTSR1) induces differential expression of miRNAs (Gastroenterology 2011;141:1749) and NTS-modulated miR-133α expression regulates the expression of its downstream target aftiphilin (AFPTH) (DDW2013: #934). Here we elucidated the mechanism by which miR-133α regulates NTS signaling in vitro, and studied the functional consequences of this response in colitis. Methods: NTS/miR-133α -regulated proinflammatory cytokine production in NCM460-NTSR1 cells and colon tissues was examined by qPCR and Bio-Plex Pro Human Cytokine Assay. Acute colonic inflammation was induced by intracolonic administration of TNBS (5 mg/kg, 48 h). Expression of miR-133α in the colon was inhibited by intracolonic administration of anti-sense (as)-miR-133α (2 doses, every two days) before TNBS treatment. The degree of inflammation was evaluated on distal colon segments stained with H&E. Results: MiR-133α overexpression in NCM460-NTSR1 cells increased transcription of IL-8, IL-1β and TNF-α, while its knock-down attenuated NTS-induced IL-8 and IL-6 transcription (P<0.01).  Bio-plex cytokine assays showed that NTS/miR-133α/AFTPH interactions are directly involved in the production of IL-1β (P<0.05). MiR-133α knock-down in mouse colon reduced colonic cxcl1, lcn2 and TNF-α expression (P<0.05) and neutrophil infiltration (P<0.05) in response to intracolonic TNBS administration. MiR-133α levels we increased (15-times, p<0.0001) during TNBS-induced colitis. MiR-133α knock-down in vivo also improved mucosal integrity (P<0.05) and overall histological score (P<0.05), supported by increased expression of the colonic epithelial cell marker, krt20 (P<0.01). Importantly, AFTPH transcription levels were significantly lower (P=0.0104) while miR-133α levels were up-regulated in colon tissues from patients with ulcerative colitis (n=22), compared to control tissues (n-21). Conclusions: miR-133α/AFTPH interactions regulate NTS-stimulated proinflammatory response in human colonic epithelial cells. Silencing of miR-133α in the colon reduces cytokine expression and histologic damage and inflammation in mouse colitis. These results suggest that miR-133α/AFTPH interactions promote NTS-induced proinflammatory responses in the colonic mucosa. Targeting of miR-133α in the colon may represent a novel form for treatment in Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

Supported by NIH grant DK60729 (CP), the Blinder Research Foundation for Crohn's Disease (IKML), and the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America (KB). 

Nancee Jaffe UCLA Registered DieticianNancee Jaffe, a dietician with the UCLA Celiac Disease Program, commented in a March 27 Santa Cruz Sentinel article about the trend of gluten-free products and baked goods. 



Kirsten Tillisch MD UCLA GastroenterologyDocumentary Highlights Gut-Brain Interactions
Arte, a TV network in Europe, aired a documentary in January and March on the relationship between the gut and brain that featured UCLA research showing that ingesting probiotic bacteria can affect brain function in humans. Dr. Kirsten Tillisch, associate professor of medicine in the division of digestive diseases at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, who directs the neuroimaging core of the G. Oppenheimer Center for Neurobiology of Stress and Resilience at UCLA, was interviewed. 



Kirsten Tillisch MD UCLA GastroenterologyDr. Kirsten Tillisch, associate professor of medicine in the division of digestive diseases and director of the neuroimaging core at the G. Oppenheimer Center for Neurobiology of Stress and Resilience, commented in Dr. Oz's The Good Life magazine on the role of bacteria in healthy digestion and food sensitivities that may affect the gut.



Dr. Gary Gitnick Chief UCLA Division of Digestive DiseasesSuper Bowl Party Addresses Education 
A Feb. 2 Los Angeles Daily News story featured an annual Super Bowl party given by Dr. Gary Gitnick, chief of the division of digestive diseases, professor of medicine and founder of the Fulfillment Fund, a non-profit organization that helps under-served students access college through mentoring, counseling, motivational in-school curriculum and other support programs. The event was attended by a number of Los Angeles education and political leaders, including Mayor Eric Garcetti and United Teachers of Los Angeles President Warren Fletcher. A town hall panel was held during half-time to discuss key education issues. 


Dr. Emeran Mayer UCLA Gail and Gerald Oppenheimer Family Center for Neurobiology of StressDr. Emeran Mayer, professor of digestive diseases, physiology and psychiatry at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and executive director of UCLA's G. Oppenheimer Center for Neurobiology of Stress and Resilience, was quoted Jan. 26 in a London Times article about the influence of food companies on scientific research. 




UCLA Rated One of the Top Hospitals in the Nation