Genetic engineering at forefront of fight against Crohn's disease

13 December 2016


It is often called the ‘invisible illness’ but Consultant Gastroenterologist Dr Mark Cox is aiming to make more people aware of Crohn’s Disease and the possible treatments.

“Although there is still no cure for Crohn’s there are many ways to treat and manage the disease. A recent development has been to inject the patient with genetically engineered proteins that attack the proteins in the body that are causing the inflammation,” he explained.

“For example HUMIRA (adilumimab), is a protein that blocks the Anti TNF alpha protein that actually causes the inflammation. By blocking this protein it is possible to achieve very significant reduction in inflammation. This process means we are helping the body to heal itself.

“We also have other agents available that block alternative inflammatory pathways that are activated in Crohns disease. These biological treatments are now well established and more new agents are under development.

“Hopefully, in the future we will be able to tailor treatment to the specific inflammatory process most active in each individual and hence massively affect the disease burden of the patients.”

A recent patient had spent much of her adult life on medication as she battled chronic problems with her digestive system but is now seeing major improvements following injections with the genetically engineered protein.

Dr Cox, who has a practice at Spire Parkway Hospital, explained: “The lady in question was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis when she was just 12 years old, has suffered flare-ups throughout her life.

“However, when I carried endoscopy and colonoscopy investigations I found she was suffering from a very aggressive form of Crohn’s Disease - a long-term condition that causes inflammation of the lining of the digestive system.

 “She had been prescribed steroid tablets but they had no effect and you can’t keep taking steroids so I felt the protein injections were the best way to treat the illness. We aren’t long into the treatment but I am delighted to say the patient is responding really well and we are already making good progress,” said Dr Cox.

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