Using biomarkers to predict disease severity in children with IBD


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Investigating biomarkers to predict disease outcomes in children with Inflammatory Bowel Disease. 


We hope to improve current treatment provision for children with Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

Claire Lee, Research Nurse, Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge

What is this research looking at?

More children are being diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. In the absence of any cure, these children still face a lifetime of daily medication, and frequently require surgery, to help control symptoms. There is a substantial variation in severity of disease between individual children with IBD, ranging from mild, requiring minimal treatment to severe treatment resistant disease, requiring increasingly potent medications and surgery. 

It is hard to predict disease severity for an individual child, which makes the choice of initial treatment very difficult. Recent research in adults has identified a highly promising measure that can predict the disease course in adults with IBD. This marker can be analysed in a specific blood cell type (i.e. CD8+ T cells).

We plan to see if we can use this biomarker to predict disease outcomes in a subset of children whose CD8+ T cells have been sampled.

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

If successful, our disease predicting test would substantially improve current treatment practices for children suffering with IBD. Our test would allow us to personalise treatment for an individual child from the point of diagnosis, and as a result, improve both immediate quality of life, and long-term disease outcome for children with IBD.


The researchers were unable to develop a reliable biomarker (to predict disease outcomes) in a small group of children diagnosed with IBD. However, they have now recruited a larger group of children and received further funding for the project, allowing them to further explore this highly promising research area.

Who is leading this research? Ms Claire Lee & Dr Matthias Zilbauer, Addenbrooke’s Hospital/University of Cambridge 

Project cost: £10,000 (jointly funded by BSPGHAN)

Duration: 16 months

Official title of application: Investigating the use of CD8+ T-cell DNA methylation profiles as disease prognostic biomarkers in paediatrics with IBD (PSG16-2)