Guest blogger Mhairi McGowan Research Fellow

An interesting look at the research work of Mhairi McGowan who was awarded the Catherine McEwan Foundation Fellowship

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Hello!

I am honoured to have been conducting researching regarding the causation of IBD on behalf of the Catherine McEwan Foundation for the past year or so. The Foundation have enabled such a great opportunity for myself and the others within the Human Nutrition department at the University of Glasgow and the department of paediatric gastroenterology at children’s hospital, who have been extremely dedicated in studying both Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis for a number of years. We are thoroughly grateful to be part of such an inspiring charity. I am therefore excited to be able to explain a little bit about the research we do and to ensure you that, because of the hard work and financial input of the Foundation, significant work is ongoing trying to understand these diseases in the hope of developing a treatment or cure.

The majority of research within our IBD research group here in the Glasgow Royal Infirmary and the new Children’s hospital is in studying the human gut microbiota, or put simply; the bugs that live within our tummy.  At first, we may think that having bacteria living inside of us is a bit scary but actually, these tiny little “germs” are extremely important to human health and every single one of us are hosts to of trillions of these bugs. They thrive within our gut, especially within the large bowel, because it provides them with warm, oxygen free surroundings and a plentiful food supply from the diet. In return, these bacteria produce lots of useful substances that help us to stay healthy. These substances, specifically called fatty acids, are used by the cells within our bowel to fight off germs and to keep us healthy. Furthermore, they control irritation (inflammation) within the gut.

However, there is a strong notion that patients with IBD do not have a good relationship with the bacteria within their tummy, causing the irritation (inflammation), Until now, it has been hard to study this area as it is extremely hard to identify the bacteria involved and to understand why they might cause such a reaction. However, recent scientific advancements have allowed researchers to make some forward movement in identifying differences between the bacteria of IBD patients and those who don’t have such diseases. Some studies have found that IBD patients have more harmful species of bacteria within their gut which may cause disease, whilst others report that both Crohn’s and Colitis patients have reduced bacterial variety compared to healthy people. Therefore it may be that patients with IBD do not have enough different good (beneficial) bacteria working to keep our guts healthy.

Part of my research was investigating the differences between the bacteria of IBD patients and healthy people. However, a larger and perhaps more important aspect was looking at ways of changing the bugs so they looked like that of a healthy person. The bacteria within our guts use fibre from our diets as food, and different types of bacteria prefer different sources of fibre. So, depending on what type of food we eat, we can selectively grow different types of bacteria. However we do not know if this is possible in Crohn’s and Colitis patients. We decided to use a special experiment to investigate what happened when we provided the gut bacteria of IBD patients’ with different types of fibre.

We investigated this in the lab rather than within patients themselves.  The system we used in the lab did however mimic the surroundings inside the body so we could get an idea of what would happen in our tummies. This is like an “out of body” bowel.

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We looked at if the bacteria make helpful substances in response to the different fibres in Crohn’s Disease patients, and Colitis patients compared to healthy people.   It was found that there was a general trend of reduced helpful substances in those who had IBD. This may help us understand the causes or better ways to treat IBD. It also showed us that those who have already received treatment for their IBD are able to change the healthy substances their bowel’s make but not as much as patients without IBD.

As patients (or relatives of patients) of IBD, I suspect you all have been told by doctors that you may need to change your diet to help IBD. Some of you will have been on Modulen, (a liquid-based diet given to children with Crohn’s Disease). I am sure that most of you who have been on this diet will report that, although you may have missed eating some of your favourite foods, you felt a whole lot better after this treatment. So we already know that diet can influence disease; however this is a complex matter. Fibre is generally thought to be healthy, and as discussed, helps to make helpful compounds in our bowels.

We have now devised a specific diet which, in theory, should have the same effect as Modulen. Alongside his PhD student, Vaios Svolos, and consultant gastroenterologists Dr Richard Hansen, Dr Richard Russell and Dr Dan Gaya. we will be comparing the effects of this diet compared to Modulen in healthy people and in animals. If the results are promising, the team may be able to successfully implement this diet in patients, which would be very exciting indeed.

Throughout my research, I have been continually inspired by the people working around me; the academic researchers, clinicians, IBD nurses and dietitians… It is clear that there is a strong team in Glasgow both on the front line looking after patients, and behind the scenes conducting the all-important IBD research. I feel assured for the patients that I have met that they are in the most capable hands, and I am proud that I have had a small part in this diligent, passionate and exciting group.

The Catherine McEwan Foundation has obviously been invaluable in streamlining the efforts of this group, from funding our research and providing the necessary, top-of the range equipment to our laboratory, to the recruitment of Lisa, the IBD nurse. For a small, local charity to be able to support this is outstanding and is a strong testament to the efforts of Derek, Jenny and all of the team.  I am extremely impressed by the youngsters who front many of the events held by the Foundation- hearing them speak about their experiences with IBD and their involvement in the charity is very humbling. And, despite everything, they do it all with a smile!

I’d like to take a chance to thank all the participants of my study, without whom this research would not be possible. It was great to talk to those who are affected by IBD and really spurred me on with my studies.

On a personal level I cannot thank the Catherine McEwan Foundation enough for allowing me this opportunity. I truly hope that the work we have conducted will help scientists and clinicians understand IBD further.

 

Foundation Supports Ground Breaking New Study

Foundation supporting new study looking at a new treatment for children with IBD

Great news!  With your help we are teaming up with other groups across Europe to take part in the VEDOKIDS study. New treatments for children with Crohn’s and Colitis don’t come along too often so it is great to be able to take part in supporting a study that will be doing this.

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Derek McEwan, Dr Richard Russell & Prof Dan Turner from Jerusalem

Vedolizumab is a new treatment used in adults with IBD from 2015 with promising results but good quality studies in children have not been done yet. We have teamed up with the European Crohn’s & Colitis Organization, the European Society of Pediatric Gastroenterology Hepatology and Nutrition plus Shaare Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem to carry out the study. The team will study how well children respond to the Vedolizumab treatment as well as measuring levels of the drug over the course of a year in 120 children from at least 16 different hospitals.

We hope this study will be able to identify children who will benefit from this treatment at an early stage and who otherwise have a limited choice of treatments for their IBD.

We will keep you up to date with the progress and thank all of our supporters for contributing to this incredible study.

Katie’s Blog

I’m Katie Leigh and I am 11 years old.  I was diagnosed with IBDU in February 2014 when I was only 8 years old.  Up until about a year before this, I was a happy, healthy child who had just started to learn to play the fiddle with a local music group, enjoyed netball, athletics and was in Primary 3 and enjoying school.

My family started noticing I was getting really pale and not eating as much as I used to and I was getting tired much more easily and more often, truth was, I was getting lots of sore tummies and was having to run to the toilet every time I ate something, just before diagnosis I was going to the toilet about 20 times per day.

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My mum had me back and forth to the GP.  They thought at first I was maybe Lactose intolerant so I had to change and monitor my diet, then they thought I may have been celiac, so I had to get bloods done which I hated, then they lost my bloods so I had to get them done again.  It was terrible!  One night my mum walked in on me to see if I was ok while I was in the toilet, there were lots and lots of blood in the pan and I was scared.  My mum took me to the local hospital and was then sent to Wishaw hospital where I met Dr Delahante for the first time.  I had to give the nurses a poo sample every time I went to the toilet, and there were lots.  Dr Delahante was pretty sure I had an Inflammatory Bowel Disease, something me or my family had never heard of but the only way to know for sure was to get scopes done.  I was discharged after a couple of days with plans for me to go to Yorkhill Hospital to get the scopes done.  I hated the bowel prep, it was disgusting and it made me sick, luckily I had kept enough down for it to clear my bowel out.  I woke up after the anaesthetic really confused, there were monitors and drips and I didn’t know what they were for. Then my life changed forever.

My mum came in to recovery to meet me, I could see she was a bit upset.  When we got back to my room the Doctor came to see us and told us that I had lost a lot of blood and was getting a blood transfusion and that part of my bowel was so badly inflamed that he couldn’t get the camera all the way through because my bowel would have ruptured but he confirmed that I did have an Inflammatory Bowel Disease and hearing the words “No Cure” terrified me.

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I thought that I was only going in for an overnight stay but I spent the next week and a half in hospital, which felt like forever.   I was started on steroids and azathioprine and I was told that I would need to get the scopes done again in a few weeks once the steroids had started to make my bowel a bit better.

I was off school for a few weeks more, I was very tired and my teacher sent me homework home so I could keep up with the children in my class.  One day I got a card through my door from my teacher and class mates, it was a get well soon card.  Did it really come this far that my class was sending me get well cards home?  I remember the day I visited the school to explain my illness to my head teacher and I took a visit to my classroom, all my friends were crying and didn’t really understand what I was going through.

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I started off on azathiprine, which only kept me well for a couple of months before having another flare, so I was put onto Methatrexate injections which I had to do every week. I hated this because the side effect made me sick and I felt sick for 2 days, Saturday and Sunday which meant I spent my full weekend in bed, but it kept me well for a year and a half until March this year were I developed Arthritis in my hip which was torture because I was very athletic and couldn’t do all the sports that I loved doing.  I couldn’t do PE, netball, cross country, athletics or go to the boxing club.

I have been for many more scopes, the latest being on my birthday this year, regular blood tests, which don’t scare me anymore and many, many more hospital stays.  I am now treated with Infliximab infusions every 8 weeks and back taking azathioprine every day, and so far (touch wood!) is keeping me well.  My inflammation markers are at the lowest that they have been since I was diagnosed and are hopefully continuing to fall and eventually I am well enough to be in remission.

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I have a new found determination to raise funds and awareness for Crohns & Colitis and our first fundraiser in August this year we raised £6300.  We hope to smash that next year!

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Exciting News from Dr Richard Russell

We are excited to announce news about how further funding from the Catherine McEwan Foundation is being planned to continue support for the research ongoing in Glasgow. The posts previously supported by funding are Lisa Richmond, IBD research nurse and Mhairi McGowan, who was awarded the first Catherine McEwan fellowship. There will be upcoming blogs from both Lisa and Mhairi to let you know in more detail exactly what they have been up to.

We are now planning the appointment of BOTH a research dietician and a Second Catherine McEwan fellowship to support the ongoing work we are doing on dietary treatments of IBD. We have now successfully completed our work with our new “CD treat” diet in healthy volunteers. When these new team members are on board the next stage will be then giving the “CD treat” diet to a small group of children and adults with Crohn’s disease. This is an exciting and big step forward for the team. We will of course let you know once these appointments have been made.

Thank you as always to everyone for their continued ongoing support. Our work would not be possible without you.

 

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World IBD Day

Check out our video where we look at our funded posts and research……its something we are very proud of!

Super Busy Jenny!

The last month has been super busy! I was in London to cheer on my dad, Derek and Dean at the London Marathon which was one of their warm up events for the big Arch2Arc challenge! This was really fun and I am so proud of the 3 of them.

 

Once we got back from London, it was the Young Scot Awards! Winning the health award and Young Scot of the Year was really unexpected! I had a brilliant night & I loved hearing the finalist’s stories and getting to meet some of them.  The next day I was at another awards ceremony for an achievement award my school nominated me for! These awards really help to raise awareness of my charities and IBD which is the most important thing.

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My recent blood results showed that I’m low on iron and I’m on tablets for 3 months. Being fatigued all the time is quite of a struggle but I’ve still managed to make school and keeping myself busy. The tablets have been giving me a sore tummy but I’m just looking forward to getting my energy back!

As you may know, May is IBD Awareness Month and I have lots of stuff throughout the month planned. I am selling purple candles, after a meeting with the lovely Aileen and Lorraine they were very kindly donated by IKEA Glasgow. My local church is lighting up purple again all next week and on World IBD Day Thursday 19th May my school year group are replicating the Arch 2 Arc challenge, I am also talking at the Stewartfield Farm my local pub that night and I have Morgan Stanley and Morrisons in Stewartfield having a dress down day for me!

I am also now friends with a girl called Amelia who also has Ulcerative Colitis and has just recently had her large bowel removed too. She is doing really well and she is speaking about her story at Tea Jenny this year! She was at my house yesterday helping making up some purple candles!jen4

Thank you as always for all of your support, I really appreciate everyone who helps me with my fundraising and awareness. It means so much to me.

Jenny x

Catherine McEwan Foundation Research Fellow Wins Top Award

Another proud moment for the Catherine McEwan Foundation as our Research Fellow, Mhairi McGowan wins an award for the research work we are funding.

Konstantinos Gerasimidis, Head of research explains

“The number of bacteria which reside in our gut exceeds the number of cells in our entire body! The composition and function of these gut bacteria are mainly determined by the type and amount of food we eat every single day.

Food components that we eat are used by gut bacteria to produce an enormous number of bacterial products. These products are not only important for our gut health but also for the health of our entire body.

Alterations in the balance of healthy gut bacteria composition and function have been linked with the cause of conditions like allergy, obesity, diabetes and IBD.

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Miss Mhairi McGowan, a Research Fellow funded by the Catherine McEwan Foundation is carrying out research exploring the interaction between food, gut bacteria and tuning of immune system in people with IBD. Mhairi with Miss Yunqi Koh, a fellow student from the Medical School in Glasgow,  explore how capable and efficient the gut bacteria of children and adults with IBD are to break down indigestible food components like dietary fibre and how these bacterial products interact with our immune system and induce or suppress inflammation.

Early data from this ongoing work suggests that the gut microbiota of patients with IBD is less efficient than people without the condition to break down fibre to molecules which play vital role in the maintenance of intestinal health and gut inflammation. These are really exciting findings and suggest that patients with IBD may not have the opportunity to experience the benefits of fibre intake in the same way that healthy people do.

Early findings of this work were presented at the annual meeting of the British Society of Paediatric Gastroenterology Hepatology & Nutrition in Bristol this year. Mhairi and her team have been awarded the Sean Devine Memorial Prize for the best research presented in the conference. Mhairi conducts her study in collaboration with scientists from the University of Glasgow and the clinical teams at Glasgow Royal Infirmary and the Royal Hospital for Children. Mhairi is using a state-of-the art gas chromatography , which has been funded by the Catherine Mcewan Foundation.”

 

 

Pioneering Catherine McEwan Foundation Funded Research Wins Prestigious Award

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Vaios Svolos a PhD student funded by Yorkhill Children’s Charity and work supported funding from the Catherine McEwan Foundation is looking at diet in the treatment of Crohn’s disease. He has been awarded the Best Investigator-Initiated Study Abstract Award 2016 at the 2016 European Crohn’s & Colitis Organisation (ECCO) meeting in Amsterdam. The ECCO meeting is the biggest meeting in the world solely devoted to IBD. His presentation “Crohn’s Disease-TReatment-with-EATing” diet (CD-TREAT diet) and exclusive “enteral nutrition on healthy gut bacteria metabolism” will be heard by an estimated 5000 people when he gives it in March. It was selected as the winner out of nearly 200 abstracts entered.

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Vaios said, “In the study we gave the liquid diet normally used to treat Crohns disease to healthy adult volunteers. Then after a period of normal diet gave them our newly designed “CD treat diet” which looks like it had exactly the same impact as the liquid diet. We will shortly be running more detailed scientific analysis of the samples taken during the study before we then plan to then use the diet in patients with Crohn’s disease. Patients have told us they would prefer to have a solid rather than a liquid only diet to treat their Crohn’s disease so that’s what we are trying to do!”

This exciting ground breaking research is leading the way in IBD and it is with the combined support of the Yorkhill Children’s Charity and the Catherine McEwan Foundation that this has been possible.

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New App launch will help teams looking after children with Crohn’s disease

The Catherine McEwan Foundation together with the Yorkhill IBD team and Solus UK have worked together to produce an app designed to help healthcare teams across the world looking after children with Crohn’s disease.

When a child with Crohn’s disease becomes unwell it is helpful to assess how severely the Crohn’s disease is “flaring” at the time. By using a standard set of 8 questions and blood tests doctors and nurses can generate a score between 0 and 125 as a guide to the need for further treatments and tests. The score is easy to use but is not easily accessible when needed by teams, especially in the emergency situation. This has changed with the development of the app allowing easy calculation of the score using a phone or similar device.

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The original work from which the app was produced from was overseen by Professor Dan Turner from Jerusalem. He met with Derek McEwan and Dr Richard Russell (on behalf of the Yorkhill IBD team) to officially launch the app during his recent visit to Glasgow.

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He was quoted as saying the app will be useful for clinical teams looking after children with Crohn’s disease all over the world. The app is now being used in the new children’s hospital and in hospitals throughout the west of Scotland.

The team are planning another project in the new year.

Download on iTunes
Download for Android

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The Foundation visits Downing Street

It’s been a big couple of weeks for the Catherine McEwan Foundation. Both Derek McEwan & our Young Ambassador, Jenny Cook visited Number 10 at the invitation of the Prime Minister, David Cameron.

Derek was kindly invited to the St. Andrews Day reception & Jenny to the turning on of the Christmas lights.

Both met fellow Points of Light winners and were very inspired by the stories that were shared.

Incredibly that was not all, as Jenny was also awarded “The Diana Award”, which is given to young people who change the world for the better.

There is no doubt our Jenny is doing that!

Thanks as always to all the Catherine McEwan Foundation family for your continued support.