What question does this research address?

The cause of ulcerative colitis (UC) is unknown, less than half of patients respond to current therapies and the only cure is removal of the colon. The limited treatment options available is partly due to a lack of human-specific UC disease models that can be used in the lab to identify new therapies. Having accurate models is very important because it allows researchers to perform vital studies that would not a feasible in patients. Greater, human-specific knowledge of UC is needed so diagnosis, prognosis and treatment can be improved.

How will this study work?

To address this, the research team have developed a collaboration between the University of Nottingham Division of Cancer and Stem cells and the Nottingham Digestive Disease Centre to produce a human-specific model of UC using colon tissue from healthy and UC patients, creating “mini-colons” in a petri dish. The research team will use this mini-colon model, comprised of 30 unique patient samples, to understand how the immune system, bacteria, and scarring, which are important features of UC, contribute to the disease beginning and progressing.

What is the aim of this research?

Developing these “mini-colons” could help test drugs and markers in the tissue that could be used for diagnosis. The knowledge gained from this project could provide information on other diseases such as Crohn’s disease and bowel cancer.

The researchers

This study is led by Dr Nicholas Hannan and Dr Gordan Moran at the University of Nottingham.