Children's Hospital Colorado

Research at the Digestive Health Institute

As one of the nation's leading pediatric gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition programs, our team of researchers at the Digestive Health Institute is committed to advancing knowledge and clinical care in order to improve the digestive health of our patients.

Through basic, translational and clinical research, we are discovering the mechanisms underlying disease. We’re also developing innovative diagnostic tests and evaluating novel therapeutic interventions and preventive strategies.

Dr. Shikha Sundaram gives a high five to a teenage patient.
Research article

Shikha Sundaram, MD, a pediatric hepatologist at Children’s Hospital Colorado, is investigating how nocturnal hypoxia and sleep apnea may affect the liver in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

Our gastroenterology and hepatology advances

As leaders in pediatric gastroenterology and hepatology research, our researchers make discoveries and disseminate this knowledge across the globe to transform pediatric care.

At the Digestive Health Institute, our highly specialized teams have transformed treatments and increased understanding of various gastrointestinal and hepatological conditions, including:

  • Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD)
  • Eosinophilic gastrointestinal diseases (EGDs)
  • Celiac disease
  • Intestinal failure
  • Pediatric liver diseases

Advances in gastroenterology and digestive health

Through new tests, therapies and scientific evidence, we are improving care for children with digestive disease. Some of the most significant gastroenterology advances from our Digestive Health Institute include:

Advances in hepatology research

Our developments in the field of pediatric hepatology include:

  • Evidence demonstrating that sleep-disordered breathing is an important trigger in the progression of pediatric non-alcoholic fatty liver disease to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis
  • New findings demonstrating the role of B cells in the onset and progression of biliary atresia
  • Defining the factors that determine long-term outcomes after pediatric liver transplantation
Dr. Shika Sundaram at Children's Hospital Colorado.

"Children are fun to be around, and playing is their job. And because they love to play, their entire focus is getting back to that."

Shikha Sundaram, MD

Medical Director, Pediatric Liver Transplant Program

Learn about Dr. Sundaram's research

Ongoing research at the Digestive Health Institute

Led by Ronald Sokol, MD, one of the top-funded pediatric researchers in the country, our Institute seeks to continually improve diagnosis, treatment and outcomes for children with digestive health issues.

Ongoing pediatric gastroenterology and digestive health research

  • Studying the effect of a gluten-free diet on a variety of physical and emotional parameters
  • Developing new therapies for IBD, including exploring cannabis therapy
  • Establishing new therapies and national guidelines for evaluating and treating children with EGDs
  • Enhancing care for aerodigestive patients, including evaluating the impacts of procedural testing, improving the flow of the operating room for multidisciplinary procedures and developing new and safer endoscopic techniques
  • Understanding how intestinal ganglion cells can be replenished in inflammatory and congenital diseases that affect gastrointestinal motility

Ongoing pediatric hepatology research

As participants and leaders of the Childhood Liver Disease Research and Education Network (ChiLDREN), our hepatology researchers aim to better understand the etiology and outcomes of rare pediatric liver diseases, develop predictive tools and personalize and test new therapies. Some of our hepatology research includes:

  • Studying the cause and new therapies for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), the most common liver disease in children and adults
  • Exploring clues to the causes of biliary atresia and parenteral nutrition-associated liver disease (PNALD), pathways of disease progression and potential therapeutic approaches
  • Determining genetic and epigenetic factors that are essential to the formation of bile in the developing infant liver and during illness
  • Trialing new therapies for Hepatitis B and C viruses, leading to new cures and treatments of these viruses in children
  • Identifying children who develop tolerance to the transplanted liver and can be taken off of immunosuppressive therapy

What our gastroenterology and hepatology research means for kids

Our team is committed to improving the lives of children with digestive conditions. That's why we are working to develop minimally invasive tests and procedures that are faster, safer, more affordable and more convenient for patients. We're also developing treatments and cures for some of the most serious diseases of the digestive system.

Through cutting-edge research, we are helping children throughout the United States. Our contributions have helped to establish clinical pathways and national guidelines on button battery ingestions, adverse events following endoscopy and more.

Learn more about the Digestive Health Institute. Contact us at 720-777-6669.

(From left) Pediatric gastroenterologist Edward Hoffenberg, MD; genetic counselor Alexandra Suttman, MS, CGC; and pediatric oncologist Lindsey Hoffman, DO, talk genetics with a patient and her mom.

Prevention in the uncharted world of childhood polyposis

Intestinal polyps form during childhood for a variety of reasons, many of them not well understood. Our team is collaborating to find the answers.

Learn about our research

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