Predicting Bone Loss in Patients with Inflammatory Bowel Diseases by Prof Jacqueline Center


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Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), including Crohn’s disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC), are chronic relapsing conditions of the bowel that are increasing in incidence and prevalence. One of the most common complications of IBD is osteoporosis. It is estimated that osteoporosis occurs in at least 40% of patients with IBD, and low bone mass and osteopenia can be as high as 70%. As a consequence of reduced bone mass, there is an increased risk of osteoporotic fracture.   While corticosteroid therapy has been implicated in bone loss, emerging evidence suggests that other factors, such as the disease itself, inflammation, malabsorption, and vitamin D deficiency, may also contribute to the deterioration of bone health.

Over the past two years, Professor Jacqueline Center, together with Dr Simon Ghaly and their team, with the support of the St Vincent’s Clinic Research Foundation, have made significant strides in their research endeavours to understand the correlation between inflammatory bowel diseases and bone health. They successfully recruited 92 patients for the study, with 80 participants completing 12 months of follow-up.

Preliminary findings from their research indicate a correlation between severe levels of inflammation, as reflected by inflammatory markers in the blood (e.g., C-reactive protein), and reduced bone density in patients with IBD. Interestingly, stool markers of inflammation, such as calprotectin, did not show the same association.

The support provided by the St Vincent’s Clinic Research Foundation has been instrumental in initiating this research project. Seed funding enabled the team to lay the groundwork, gather preliminary data, and validate their research hypotheses. With these foundational findings, they are now placed to advance to the next stage of their investigation—a large multi-centre cohort study.

As the research journey continues, the team remains committed to unravelling the complexities surrounding bone health in patients with IBD. Their ultimate goal is to develop effective screening tools and interventions to mitigate the risk of osteoporosis and bone loss in this vulnerable population.

“This grant was important seed funding to get the project off the ground and prove a concept. We can now use these findings to propel the research to the next level of a large multi-centre cohort study.” Prof Jacqueline Center