Hunting down the bacteria to blame for Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Hunting down the bacteria to blame for Inflammatory Bowel Disease

An exciting new methodology has been developed by Dr Kaser’s team which has the potential to genuinely transform IBD research, pushing it to another level.
Arthur Kaser

Arthur Kaser

In recent years, medical research has established that bacteria in the human gut have a major part to play in the development of certain immune diseases, including Type 1 Diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) - specifically ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s Disease. The microbiota of our intestines is, however, enormously complex - as next-generation DNA sequencing has shown. So to find which bacteria, or group of bacteria, are causal to any condition is akin to finding the proverbial needle in the haystack.

It’s not a task for the faint hearted, but the challenge been taken on in the case of IBD by Arthur Kaser, Professor of Gastroenterology at the Department of Medicine, University of Cambridge,in research partly funded by the Evelyn Trust.

When a patient develops IBD, the body’s immune reaction causes pain and acute diarrhoea, among other distressing symptoms and Dr Kaser hypothesises that this is an ‘inappropriate’ reaction to the bacteria present. But which bacteria? To complicate the problem, the varieties of bacteria in the gut vary enormously between individuals: they change according to the food we eat, our environment, our use of antibiotics and even how long waste takes to travel through our bowels.

Dr Kaser’s research team is now focussed on studying the interaction between the immune system and the intestinal microbiota, using a brand new methodology which they have developed.

“MilP-Seq is our term for this exciting methodology which has the potential to genuinely transform our research, pushing it to another level. For the first time we can now ‘see’ what the immune system ‘sees’ within the complex ecosystem of bacteria in the gut – the ‘immunobiome’. We are now working to decipher the immunobiome of IBD to identify the microbes that trigger the immune reaction and therefore the symptoms the patient suffers,” says Professor Kaser. “The funding from the Evelyn Trust enabled us to develop extra ‘proof of concept’ data that has been the basis of further research into the causes of IBD and, ultimately, will enable the delivery of highly effective treatments. The project has been a key component in our recent successful application for a coveted European Research Council Consolidator Award worth €2.3M. We’re enormously grateful to the Evelyn Trust for the support their grant provided at a critical moment.”

This research is not only exciting, but could prove vital to the rapidly growing numbers of children and adults around the world suffering from the debilitating conditions known as IBD, which currently have no cure.

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