Supporting Guts UK and their research into the gut microbiome

We’re pleased to announce that we have started a new charity partnership with Guts UK. Guts UK was founded in 1971 and is the only UK charity funding research into the digestive system “from top to tail”.

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Digestive diseases are surprisingly common. However, Guts UK research has shown that 58% of people are embarrassed to talk about their digestive condition or symptoms, and 51% of people delay seeking advice for their symptoms over 6 months.

Guts UK’s vision is a world where everyone who lives with digestive diseases receives the support they need. Guts UK aim to do this by providing expert information, raising public awareness, and funding research that can make a difference to patients. 

The Guts UK website provides excellent resources and information on our digestive systems, testing and the relationship between our diet and our guts. There’s a taboo when it comes to talking about our personal plumbing, but the information is designed to be accessible – and includes helpful tools such as the “Poo-torial”.

One of Guts UK’s priority research areas is the gut microbiome – the complex community of microorganisms that reside in our guts. Studies have shown that an imbalance in the microbiome is an underlying cause of many diseases, but the mechanisms behind this are not fully understood.

Here at Mewburn Ellis, we are fascinated by all things microbiome, and so we looked at some of the valuable research that Guts UK has funded in this area.

Bowel Cancer

Professor Colin Rees researches bowel cancer (also known as colorectal cancer). Bowel cancer is a cancer that can be found anywhere in the large intestine (including the colon and the rectum).

Professor Rees’ research includes COLO-COHORT, a colorectal cancer cohort study aiming to collect data from 10,000 patients. The aim of COLO-COHORT is to develop a “risk stratification tool” which will help identify which patients are at the highest risk of developing adenomas (a benign tumor that has not yet developed into cancer) or bowel cancer.

A key part of the COLO-COHORT study is to investigate the role of microbiome diversity in the development of adenomas and bowel cancer. 

The outcomes of this study will not only inform microbiome research, but also have the potential to have a meaningful impact on clinical practice. The overwhelming majority of patients referred to hospital with bowel symptoms each year turn out not to have bowel cancer, and endoscopy services are overstretched. The results of the study will hopefully mean that those who are low-risk will avoid unnecessary procedures, while still ensuring that those who are higher-risk can be referred for investigation.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

Dr Marc-Emmanuel Dumas investigates non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). NAFLD is a term for a range of conditions where a build-up of fat is found in the liver. Left unchecked, this build-up of fat can lead to liver damage and increase the risk of health problems such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

As its name suggests, NAFLD is not caused by drinking too much alcohol – the precise cause is unknown, but there are various risk factors associated with it, such as being overweight, high blood pressure and diet.

Dr Dumas’ research has identified a reduction in microbiome gene diversity in women with early-stage NALFD, and interestingly, identified a microbial chemical that contributes directly to fat accumulation in the liver. Dr Dumas’ group seeks to better understand the role that the microbiome plays in this disease and the associated risk factors.

Crohn’s Disease

Dr Konstantinos Gerasimidis’ team research Crohn’s Disease. Crohn’s Disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease that causes swelling in the digestive tract. Unfortunately, Crohn’s Disease is lifelong, and the exact cause is unknown; however, research suggests that the microbiome may play a role.

One of the treatments currently available for patients with Crohn’s Disease is a restrictive liquid diet, which can be very difficult to stick to for long periods of time. Dr Gerasimidis’ team however developed a solid food diet (called CD-TREAT) using carefully selected everyday foods, which reduced symptoms in 67% of children and 79% of adults who took part in the study. The results need to be confirmed in a larger study but are very promising.

The above represents just some of the important research Guts UK is funding and the work they do. Through our partnership with Guts UK, we hope to learn more about their research and promote their excellent work. Watch this space!

We regularly blog about the microbiome so take a look at our blog series and our spotlight page dedicated to all things microbiome.