New research to help children with inflammatory bowel disease

Two new studies have been launched at our hospital to help further enhance clinical understanding of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) amongst children and young people.

More than 100 children and 3,000 adults are currently under the care of the hospital for IBD and three to four new cases a month are being diagnosed by the paediatric gastroenterology team. IBD covers conditions such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, which can be debilitating for children and young adults as well as affecting their mental health and wellbeing.

The Paediatric Gastroenterology team and Children’s and Women’s Research team at NNUH have joined the TRIPP Research Protocol (Translational Research in Intestinal Physiology and Pathology) in Cambridge, which is funded and supported by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR). The study involves collecting blood samples and intestinal biopsies to understand the genetic signatures that can cause IBD. Mini-gut models can also be grown from stem cells to further understanding of the mechanisms involved in IBD and to test specific treatments.

Dr Marco Gasparetto, Consultant Paediatric Gastroenterologist, said: “Inflammatory bowel disease is a complex, multi-factorial, immune-mediated condition that is affecting increasing numbers of adults and children worldwide. While a single mechanism underlying the disease has not been identified and therefore a definite cure is not available, research endeavours in the past years have made remarkable progress identifying some of the pathways involved. This has led to new treatment developments for the patients affected by this long-lasting condition.

“There is increasing evidence on the role of environmental factors and their interplay with a genetic predisposition in triggering IBD and there is lots of research ongoing, but no IBD-specific triggers identified yet.”

The Paediatric Gastroenterology Team and the Children’s and Women’s Research team at NNUH have also joined the Paediatric Inflammatory Bowel Disease (PIBD) BioResource, part of the NIHR IBD BioResource, a national platform designed to investigate how genes and environmental factors affect the immune system and to establish differences in IBD between adults and children. Eligible children and young people who wish to participate provide blood or saliva, biopsy and stool samples as well as health and lifestyle data and also consent to join the wider NIHR BioResource for research into multiple disease areas. The PIBD BioResource is funded by the Crohn’s in Childhood Research Association (CICRA) and the NIHR.

Dr Gasparetto added: “These are exciting times for high quality large research collaborations in support of our young patients with IBD and their families, and we are delighted to see both paediatric and adult gastroenterology at NNUH on the frontline.”

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