Touching Lives - February 2008
Strictures in Crohn's disease - research into troublesome scarring
Several treatments help manage flare-ups by reducing inflammation in the gut. But up to a third of people with Crohn’s disease also develop scarring to the walls of their intestine.This can become so bad that it causes a blockage, called a stricture, which stops food and faeces passing along the abdominal tract. The causes of scarring are poorly understood and no treatments can prevent it. Many people with strictures have to undergo surgery to remove the damaged part of their intestine. Using funding from Action Medical Research, a team from the University of Bristol, led by Dr Paul Bland, is investigating what causes the excessive scarring by studying samples donated by at least 15 people undergoing surgery for Crohn’s disease and another 15 or more with colorectal cancer.They are performing detailed laboratory comparisons of the biological processes taking place within scarred and nonscarred areas of the intestinal walls. Researchers hope their experiments will reveal important new information that could lead on to the development of drugs that prevent scar tissue from forming. The project team estimates that a successful new treatment could benefit 20,000 people in the UK who are slowly developing intestinal scarring. It may also help many others with fibrotic disorders, where the body forms scar tissue inappropriately, which are thought to account for nearly half of all deaths.