Dr Matthias Zilbauer and his team at the University of Cambridge are hoping to better understand the causes of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), to find better ways to treat them, sparing thousands of children a life-time of symptoms.
Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD)
Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s Disease, are painful and debilitating conditions with no cure. Around 300,000 people in the UK are affected, with up to 30% of cases diagnosed in childhood.
Why this research is vital
Children with IBD can have problems with their growth, development, and psychological wellbeing, as well as contending with pain.
Despite the prevalence of the conditions, the reasons these conditions arise are poorly understood. It is also possible that cases presenting in childhood are different from those in adults.
What researchers do know, is that the cells which line the intestines play a key role in the development of IBDs. Dr Matthias Zilbauer wants to understand how these particular cells are different in healthy children compared to children with IBD.
Dr Zilbauer and his team will use cutting-edge technology that allows them to examine tiny, single, cells and their behaviour to understand more about how their behaviour could be leading to disease.
They will also grow ‘mini-guts’ in the lab that will help them to understand how the cells behave and communicate with each other in a three-dimensional environment, more like they would in the body. They will compare these with cells from healthy children to hopefully find the differences that lead to IBD.
Impact of this project
The ultimate aim of Dr Zilbauer’s work is to uncover ways to improve the lives of children with IBDs. By understanding the causes, they hope to help identify which treatment options are most likely to help, or discover new ways to treat the conditions.
This project is jointly funded by Sparks and charity partner Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity through their national research funding call.