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IBDSENSE: developing a non-invasive test for inflammatory bowel disease

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Jenny Cameron
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Technology developed by a multi-disciplinary team of scientists and clinicians at the University of Edinburgh aims to improve diagnosis and monitoring of inflammatory bowel disease.

With over 3.7 million people affected in the EU alone, cases of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are increasing sharply, with a projected global disease burden of 20-30 million IBD cases by 2025. IBD causes debilitating inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, and with no current cure the disease has a significant impact on morbidity, mortality and socio-economic costs, constituting a major public health challenge.

IBD diagnosis and monitoring techniques have traditionally relied on invasive and sometimes painful methods such as colonoscopies and tissue biopsies, but a team of scientists and clinicians at the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Inflammation Research are teaming up on European Innovation Council Transition project IBDSENSE to develop a much-needed non-invasive test for IBD.

Non-invasive technology

The IBDSENSE team has won €2.5 million from the European Innovation Council (EIC) to develop prototypes for clinical and at-home testing, and will use technology developed by the Institute for Regeneration and Repair Chemistry Hub team, led by the Centre for Inflammation Research’s Professor Marc Vendrell and Dr Gwo-tzer Ho. The chemical diagnostic technology was created over seven years ago, with the PhD studentship of Dr Jamie Scott, who is now the Technology Lead of the project.

IBDSENSE is a novel fluorescence-based technology that can measure the activity of the enzyme Granzyme B (GzmB) in patient biosamples. GzmB is secreted by T cells, which are key effector cells in IBD, and its activity has been directly linked to inflammation in the guts of IBD patients. This new non-invasive technology has the potential to transform the lives of people living with IBD, making it easier to monitor disease progression and response to treatments.

Hope for IBD patients

In a recent survey that the team conducted with Crohn’s Colitis UK, 84% of responders said their disease was not under control and needed better diagnostic monitoring. One respondent remarked that “regular monitoring for people who have come off medication is needed.”

The three-year, IBDSENSE project aims to improve the overall patient experience for those with IBD by investigating non-invasive technologies to improve diagnosis and monitoring. This will lead to better treatment choices and personalised care for patients, which will in turn have broader positive social and economic impacts.

The work being done by the multi-disciplinary IBDSENSE research team has the potential to transform the lives of people living with IBD, and it’s hoped that it will lead to the formation of a spinout company so that the team’s breakthrough innovation can reach as many patients as possible. Throughout this journey the research team has been supported by Edinburgh Innovations, which has provided overall project management, grant application support, company formation expertise and access to crucial business networks.

The success of IBDSENSE is a clear example of the strong ecosystem we have in the IRR Chemistry Hub and the Centre for Inflammation Research, where technology developers and clinical end-users work together to foster innovation in areas of unmet clinical need.”
Professor Marc Vendrell, IRR Chemistry Hub Lead Centre for Inflammation Research
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