We examine the causes of inflammatory gastrointestinal and skin diseases and apply this knowledge for testing of new therapies and personalised medicine approaches in the clinic.
Inflammation underlies many chronic gastrointestinal and skin diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, psoriasis and atopic dermatitis. The cause of inflammation is highly variable, however, and as a result these diseases are often difficult to treat.
We aim to re-classify inflammatory gastrointestinal and skin diseases based on the cause of inflammation rather than disease symptoms alone. We will use this information to ensure that promising new therapies are targeted to the right patients at the right time.
Our work falls into three main areas:
1. Molecular pathway analysis
We are applying the latest molecular technologies to reveal how different types of cells and molecules behave in diseased tissues. This will help us identify the underlying causes of disease in different patient subgroups to guide the development of more effective therapeutics.
2. Biomarker and drug target development
Using new informatics approaches we are comparing patient clinical data with complex datasets obtained from studying diseased tissues. This will help us identify biological pathways that contribute to, or predict, disease progression and response to therapy. We are also screening existing drugs and new compounds for their ability to correct defective pathways linked to disease.
3. Experimental medicine trials
We are running small clinical trials to test new or repurposed drugs. Through careful selection of patient populations – often using newly identified biomarkers – these trials will target patients most likely to benefit from therapy.
Our research relies on well-defined patient cohorts in inflammatory bowel disease, inflammatory skin disease, primary sclerosing cholangitis and IgG4-related disease. These are made available through the Translational Gastroenterology Unit, the Department of Dermatology and other nearby clinical centres.
- T cells in Coeliac Disease – We are studying the role of CD8+ T cells in Coeliac disease. These cells accumulate in the gut of patients with gluten intolerance and remain resident cells even after a gluten-free diet is adopted. We aim to understand the targets and functions of these cells and their role in disease. We hope to use this information to develop new treatments and tests for Coeliac disease.
- TrueColours in IBD: remote digital monitoring of chronic disease – TrueColours-IBD is a web-based platform that allows remote monitoring of patients with ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. Patients are able to record disease activity, quality of life, and outcomes such as steroid use and hospitalisation. Doctors can use this data to inform treatment decisions. Additionally, we are currently developing a system, called InSpectrum, to analyse the mass of information collected through TrueColours. It will be a multi-dimensional tool that acts as an intelligent decision-support system and enhances clinical management of patients with ulcerative colitis.