Major genomics study into IBD in Ireland goes nationwide

18 May 2018

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The genetic study of inflammatory bowel disease is going nationwide as Genomics Medicine Ireland adds six new research sites.

Our efforts to find a possible cure or treatment for some of the most common – but currently untreatable – conditions that many of us live with has spurred geneticists to trawl through the immense dataset that is the human genome.

As the technology to analyse it becomes progressively smaller and cheaper, its ability to be more widely available to research groups and companies increases, and this is where Genomics Medicine Ireland comes in.

To that end, the company announced today (18 May) that it is to expand its genomics study into inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) – the first of its kind in Ireland – nationwide to six new research sites.

IBD explained

Used as an umbrella term for chronic inflammatory gastrointestinal disorders, IBD usually presents itself in two forms: Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. Both are lifelong conditions with no known cause or cure.

The six new sites are: University Hospital Limerick, University Hospital Galway, Cork and Mercy university hospitals, and Beaumont Hospital and St James’s Hospital in Dublin.

They join Tallaght University Hospital, St Vincent’s University Hospital, and hospitals in the Western Health and Social Care Trust area in Northern Ireland, in conjunction with the Clinical Translational Research Centre at Altnagelvin Hospital site in Derry, which participated in the study’s initial launch late last year.

The launch coincides with the marking of IBD Day on 19 May, which seeks to raise awareness and support more than 10m people around the world, including more than 20,000 people in Ireland living with the disease.

How to apply

People with IBD attending any of the research centres involved and who are interested in participating in the study have been advised to ask their consultant for more information.

Speaking of the expansion, Genomics Medicine Ireland’s chief scientific officer, Sean Ennis, said: “We will be examining the underlying genetic changes using techniques such as whole genome sequencing to identify both common and rare variants associated with IBD.

“We will also study other structural changes in the genome and how changes in our genetics contribute to IBD disease risk, progression and drug response.”

Chair of the Irish Society for Colitis and Crohn’s Disease, Bruno Lucas, also called on those diagnosed with IBD to take part.

“It’s important that as many IBD patients as possible participate in this study, since the more we increase our understanding of IBD through research such as this, the better chance we have of improving the treatments available to IBD patients, not only in Ireland but across the world.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic