Looking at the role of micro-RNA in IBD


Looking at the role of micro-RNA in IBD

Investigating the possibility of a new blood test to diagnose IBD early and predict how the disease may progress. 


...we hope to develop a blood-based biomarker to help diagnose IBD and predict which patients may go on to require potent medical treatments or surgery.

Professor Jack Satsangi, University of Edinburgh

What is this research looking at?

During the past twenty years there has been immense progress in our understanding of the genes associated with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).  However, we still do not know why some people develop IBD, while other people with the same genes do not.  Environmental factors, such as smoking, diet and lifestyle must play an important role in the development of IBD.  One scientific field that may help us understand the way in which genetics and the environment interact together is ‘epigenetics’ – the study of biological mechanisms that can change the way genes are switched on or off.  Epigenetic mechanisms which have been studied in IBD include ‘DNA methylation’ and microRNAs (miMRAs).  miRNA’s are small strands of molecules which can switch on or off certain genes.  miRNAs in the body can be influenced by things in the environment  - research has already shown that changes to the bacteria in the gut can influence the abundance of miRNAs.  Also, miRNAs derived from food have been found in the blood stream, and may also have an effect on switching genes on or off.  It has also been found that people with different diseases have different levels of specific miRNAs in their blood, so blood tests could potentially be used to diagnose or monitor specific conditions.

The researchers want to try and understand the different miRNAs found in the blood of people with IBD.  They hope to develop a blood test to help diagnose people with IBD and predict which patients may need certain treatments or surgery.  Eventually this may lead to determining new drug targets and treatments for people with IBD.

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

The researchers hope that that they will gain a complete understanding of miRNA in IBD, which may lead to a new blood test that might be able to diagnose IBD early and identify whether a person may need to go to have further treatments and surgery at an early stage.  This will allow doctors to tailor treatment for each patient in order to prevent long term complications. The long term goal is that studying and understanding miRNA’s may lead to the development of new drug therapies for people with IBD.

Who is leading this research? Professor Jack Satsangi, University of Edinburgh

Our Funding: £100,089

Duration: 24 months

Official title of application: MicroRNA profiling in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases: The application of Next Generation Sequencing

Tags: Genetics