This project aims to identify how the sensation of pain is registered for people with Crohn’s disease. This is being done by using biopsies taken from patients having endoscopies.

How is the study of pain in Crohn's disease being done?

The team are collecting biopsy samples from Crohn’s disease patients undergoing endoscopy at The Royal London Hospital. Patients were put into categories based on how active their disease was at endoscopy and by measuring serum C-reactive protein and faecal calprotectin levels.

C reactive protein is a substance produced by the liver in response to inflammation and is an indication of how active the disease is.
faecal calprotectin is released during periods of inflammation. This test helps to distinguish between Crohn's disease and Ulcerative Colitis.

Additionally patients were put into categories according to the intensity and frequency of their abdominal pain.

The substances found in examining the biopsies was matched against the patient's reporting of pain to determine which substances were most likely to be linked to pain sensations.

The research team

The Principal Investigator is Dr David Bulmer, Lecturer in Neurogastroenterology at the Wingate Institute. He is assisted by a post doctoral researcher using the facilities of the National Bowel Research Centre.

Why study pain in Crohn’s disease?

Abdominal pain is a big feature of living with Crohn's and is identified as a key issue to tackle by Crohn's patients. Often patients have to be hospitalised to bring it under control so that morphine can be used. Morphine use itself brings problems, including slowing down the bowel which can bring a new range of problems.

The pain of Crohn's is so intense that only constant doses of morphine will help it subside, and even then the relief is heartbreakingly brief. It is so crippling that it can cause you to lose consciousness and vomit; like someone is cutting you open from the inside.

Barry Edmonson, Crohn's patient.

Crohn's disease affects more than 90,000 people in the UK. It is a life-long condition so the driver for reducing the pain associated with the disease is clear.