Institute of Genetics and Cancer

Award received to develop personalised medicine approach for IBD

Dr Elaine Nimmo, CGEM, is awarded c£75K from Crohn’s and Colitis UK for innovative Inflammatory Bowel Disease research: June 2017

Scotland at forefront of genetic medicine revolution

Dr Elaine Nimmo from the Centre for Genomic & Experimental Medicine (CGEM), within the University of Edinburgh’s IGMM, has been awarded £74,597 to look at prognostic biomarkers for Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), using DNA methylation to predict disease outcomes. DNA methylation is a process where a person’s DNA is altered as a result of environmental influences, not genetic influences, and has proven links to inflammatory responses.

Patient information and support charity, Crohn’s and Colitis UK, has recently granted £695,304 in funding for their 2017 Research Awards to nine innovative projects across the UK that will enhance understanding, develop better treatments and improve care for these conditions. For over 30 years, Crohn’s and Colitis UK has been at the forefront of ground breaking research in Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis, the two main forms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

Tests are available that help decide whether someone has Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). However, doctors frequently have to try several different treatments for IBD before they find the right one for a particular patient. A test is required that predicts disease progress, whether it’s the severe form or the mild form and therefore whether surgery will be needed and which drugs will be effective. With this test, doctors would be able to identify the right treatment for each patient more quickly, reducing or preventing patient suffering.

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

Dr Elaine NimmoResearch Scientist and Principal Investigator with the Jack Satsangi Research Group that focuses on the Genetics of Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Work from this research group has used DNA methylation to identify patients with IBD who will go on to have a more severe form of the disease and who will require surgery or anti-TNF therapy. Using a group of markers from 11 genes, they have been able to identify, with 95% accuracy, those who will go on to require more aggressive treatment. Their aim is to develop this prognostic test further, so that it can be used clinically to give patients the correct treatment quickly, tailored to suit them, thus benefiting the patients and saving money for the NHS.

Crohn’s and Colitis UK aims to improve life for the 300,000 people in the UK affected by Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) - the main forms being Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. Lifelong chronic conditions, Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis, collectively known as IBD, can cause urgent and frequent diarrhoea, rectal bleeding, pain, profound fatigue and anaemia. In some patients, there is an associated inflammation of the joints, skin, liver or eyes. Malnutrition and weight loss are common, particularly in Crohn’s Disease.

Helen Terry, Director of Research, Policy & Public Affairs at Crohn’s and Colitis UK said “We have come a long way in our understanding of Inflammatory Bowel Disease, but there is still so much we do not know about these unpredictable, life-long and potentially life-threatening conditions. These investments into research are critical if we want to improve lives now and ultimately find a cure. We are delighted that we have been able to fund so many innovative projects that we hope will prove ground breaking in learning more about IBD for over 300,000 people in the UK who are currently living with the condition.”

Relevant Links

Elaine Nimmo's "Research In A Nutshell" video 

Jack Satsangi Research Group

Crohn’s and Colitis UK