A new indicator of gut inflammation and healing in children with Crohn’s or Colitis

Children and young people with IBD and their families wish to have paediatric-orientated investigations and treatments; they will be delighted if we can develop biomarkers that will decrease the need for invasive endoscopy (and the bowel prep!) and increase personalisation of their therapy


Prof David Wilson, University of Edinburgh

What is this research looking at? 

One of the most important goals of treatment for Crohn’s and Colitis is healing of the gut lining. Currently, the best way to measure this is by colonoscopy. But most children and young people dislike having a colonoscopy. The need for unpleasant bowel preparation, the actual procedure, time off education and parents or carers needing to take time off work make this an unpopular procedure.

So we need to find other ways to measure gut inflammation and healing that are more acceptable to children and young people.

This research will look at the role of DAMPs (damage-associated molecular patterns) in gut inflammation and healing. DAMPS are molecules that the cells in the gut lining release when they are damaged. The body recognises these DAMPs as danger signs and continues to produce an inflammatory response. This in turns prevents the gut from healing.

The amount of DAMPs in the body can be measured by a simple blood test. So the researchers plan to take blood samples from children and young people, aged 6-17 years, who:

  • Have a new diagnosis of Crohn’s or Colitis
  • Have a flare of their Crohn’s or Colitis, or
  • Are changing medications for Crohn’s or Colitis.

They will then test how well the level of DAMPs in the blood samples compare with current tests.

What do researchers think this could mean for people with Crohn's and Colitis?  

By finding an indicator of gut healing and inflammation that can be measured by a simple blood test, the researchers hope to make it easier to monitor the effect of treatments. This means that they will be able to better find the right medicine for an individual child or young person with Crohn’s or Colitis.

Who is leading this research: Professor David Wilson, University of Edinburgh

Our Funding: £98,814.73

Duration: 27 months

Official title of application: Mitochondrial DAMPs as mechanistic biomarkers of mucosal inflammation in UK paediatric Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis (Mini-MUSIC UK)

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