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25/10/2021

UL researchers establish link between Crohn’s disease and fatty tissue

UL researchers establish link between Crohn’s disease and fatty  tissue

The research, published in leading journal Scientific Reports, | FILE PHOTO

NEW research led by the University of Limerick has revealed a direct link between fatty tissue and Crohn’s disease.

The study, carried out by researchers at UL along with a team from University Hospital Limerick, is suggesting for the first time that Crohn’s disease – an inflammatory bowel condition –  may in fact be a fatty intestine condition.

Around 40,000 people in Ireland suffer from Crohn's disease and symptoms range from regular diarrhoea or constipation to cramping pains in the abdomen, loss of appetite, anaemia and ulcers in the mouth and digestive tract.

The research, published in leading journal Scientific Reports, has been described as “an exciting starting point” for the further exploration of Crohn’s disease, which affects thousands of people every year in Ireland and internationally.

“People with Crohn’s disease incorporate fat into their body in a way that is different to people who do not have Crohn’s, and appear to preferentially lay down fat on the lower parts of their body rather than the abdomen,” explained Professor Colum Dunne, Foundation Chair and Director of Research at the UL School of Medicine.

“In our study it was evident that, in the abdominal areas where the intestines are located, Crohn’s related ulcers or lesions and inflammation are associated with higher depositions of fat. More simply, in that part of their body that has relatively less overall fat, disease shows up as linked with fatty tissue surrounding the gut,” explained Professor Dunne, who led the study.

Prof Dunne added that the latest research is “a practical example of impact in real world clinical care” adding the research team adopted a novel approach.

"Our approach in exploring inflammatory bowel disease has resulted in development of a new diagnostic test that differentiates Crohn’s disease from ulcerative colitis based on blood-borne biomarkers, and may enable monitoring of treatment without need for endoscopy," he said.

“This type of innovation relies on team members who contribute diverse expertise, ranging from lab-based analysis to front-line clinical specialists. The close relationship between the University and hospitals in Limerick encourages that way of working,” Professor Dunne added.

“In UL, our studies have focused on intestinal disease using novel approaches that result from the insight and diverse perspectives of UL and UHL researchers,” he explained. 

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