Bio-markers for Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): Using DNA methylation to predict disease outcomes


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Bio-markers for Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): Using DNA methylation to predict disease outcomes 


If we can produce a valid test that predicts a patient’s severity of IBD we can improve their treatments and outcomes

Dr Elaine Nimmo, University of Edinburgh

What is this research looking at?

Blood tests are available that help doctors decide whether someone has IBD, but what is also needed are tests that predict disease progress -  whether severe or mild, if surgery will be needed, and which drugs will be effective. This way, doctors will be able to get the right treatment for each patient more quickly, thus helping prevent patient suffering and reducing NHS costs. 

In previous research supported by Crohn’s and Colitis UK the researchers identified chemical marks (methylation) on DNA, which can be used to distinguish people with IBD from unaffected people, and we are able to use these markers to help in making a diagnosis. Now they aim to develop a test for disease progression using these methylation marks on DNA. Their preliminary analysis on a small group of 120 patients showed that using these methylation marks can predict the need for surgery or the need for stronger drugs to treat the disease. Using a group of markers from 11 genes, the researchers have been able to identify 95% of those who would go on to require more aggressive treatment. With further work, they hope to improve on this accuracy and produce a test that clinicians will be able to use.

The researchers already have DNA from almost 300 patients, and will now collect fresh samples from the same patients to look at how the markers change as the disease progresses. This should reveal which markers predict disease and which are just a consequence of the disease. They also have access to DNA from a similar group of 322 Scandinavian IBD patients which will be used to confirm the findings, and are also able to involve other UK teams.  

What do researchers think this could mean for people with IBD? 

The researchers hope this study will lead to a new test for clinicians to use to assess disease progression in patients with different severities of IBD, allowing each patient to receive the most appropriate treatment.

Who is leading this research: Dr Elaine Nimmo, University of Edinburgh 

Our Funding: £74,597

Duration: 12 months

Grant reference: M2017-3

Official title of application: Prognostic bio-markers for Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): Using DNA methylation to predict disease outcomes 

Tags: IBD, DNA and genes