Biology, ecology and biomedical science at Brighton

University of Brighton biosciences blog

Bhavik Patel in the lab

Brighton duo to develop new treatment for a major health problem of old age

Professor Bhavik Patel has received a £530,503 grant for research to boost detection and treatment of the widespread problem of age-related bowel dysfunction.

This significant grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) will see Professor Patel team up with colleague Dr Mark Yeoman – Director of the university’s unique Centre for Stress and Age-related Disease – for a study running to June 2024 which aims to develop a probe to both monitor and treat a condition that affects over one third of over-65s in the UK community, and more than half of those in care homes.

In addition to the health risks, the constipation and incontinence associated with this condition often greatly impact on dignity and quality of life “and are a major cause of admission into a care home and therefore loss of independence” says Dr. Yeoman. Estimated costs to the NHS were already £1 billion per year in 2010, and with the number of people aged 65 and over set to increase by more than 40% within 20 years, this form of bowel dysfunction presents a major social and economic challenge, alongside its wellbeing impact.

“There needs to be an approach that allows for the early detection of predictive markers of age-related bowel disorders. If we can measure the chemicals and the function of bowel muscles over time, we will be able to detect changes very early before the patient gets symptoms, and start treatments to delay/prevent the onset of these disorders,” says Professor Patel.

Professor Patel and Dr Yeoman will work on developing an electrochemical probe that can be inserted into the lower bowel to track changes in key chemicals affecting bowel function, as well as muscle activity. The will require work on both design and electronics to obtain the required measurements. Additionally, the new probe is also being developed in a fashion that it can also delivery drugs into the bowel for localised treatment.

Professor Patel said: “To make these probes we will utilise 3D printing, which provides a platform for the efficient manufacturing of the parts of the probe. Once these probes have been made, we will explore how modifications to the materials used to construct the probe and the shape of the probe affect its performance. These studies will be vital to provide a probe suitable for tracking and predicting the likelihood of age-related bowel disorders.”

You can also hear Professor Bhavik talking more about his work in this 2019 podcast.

Stephanie Thomson • January 12, 2021

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