Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) comprises incurable chronic diseases of the gut which oscillate between periods of disease worsening (i.e. relapse) and relatively normal health (i.e. remission). Whilst current medicines often reduce this see-sawing problem, their effectiveness eventually wanes to the point where a large percentage of IBD patients still need hospitalisation and major surgery during their lifetime. Indeed, our current inability to cure IBD denotes that existing medicines do not tackle the root cause of IBD.
In this context, we have discovered that gut cells in IBD patients are much more prone to dying than gut cells in healthy patients. Remarkably, this shift towards exaggerated gut cell death also occurs in IBD patients who are in remission and experiencing a period of “normal health” – leading us to predict that excessive gut cell death is a root cause of IBD. In this project, we will aim to understand why gut cells in IBD patients are primed to die, and test whether correcting this molecular defect can achieve long-lasting remission.