Mighty oaks from little acorns grow – how one small Scots charity is leading the way in the fight against Crohn’s disease

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Not every charity can say 100 per cent of its donations goes directly to medical research.

Many nowadays have overheads to fund and staff to pay.

But Scots charity Cure Crohn’s Colitis, which funds research to help find a cure for debilitating inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, is staffed purely by unpaid volunteers.

Founded by businessman Ivor Tiefenbrum MBE, the charity is based at his premises at Linn Products in East Renfrewshire and has a board of trustees of just six, under its chair, Roy Provan.

But mighty oaks from little acorns grow.

Back in 2017, Cure Crohn’s Colitis invested £50,000 of its funds in an initial open-label trial of CD-TREAT, an innovative diet for adults and children with Crohn’s disease.

This has now led to a staggering £900,000 donation from international philanthropic charity the Leona M and Harry B Helmsley Charitable Trust to researchers at Glasgow University to evaluate the clinical outcomes of the solid food-based diet on those affected.

Gastroenterologist at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, Dr Daniel Gaya, who is on the board of trustees at C3, contributed to the study design and ethical application, as well as the funding award.

C3 donates 100 per cent of all its donations to medical research into inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. The devastating, chronic conditions affect 1 in 100 people in Scotland and incidences are rising rapidly.

Researchers worked with doctors at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) to develop CD-TREAT.

The diet uses everyday food to achieve the same gut microbiome changes as those seen in a liquid-only treatment known as exclusive enteral nutrition (EEN).

Dr Konstantinos Gerasimidis led the study, with the findings published in Gastroenterology, the world’s highest ranked journal for gut diseases and their treatment.

The senior lecturer at Glasgow University said: “We are delighted to receive more than £900,000 in funding from Helmsley.

“This will enable us to further our important research into more tolerable treatments for Crohn’s disease and to understand their mechanism of action.

“We are optimistic that the clinical effect of CD-TREAT will be replicated in larger studies and will compare well with other mainstream drug therapies.

“If these initial findings are replicated, doctors, nurses and dietitians will be able to decrease or replace potentially harmful and expensive drugs and even avoid surgery, for at least some patients.

“All of these have clear implications for improving the quality of life of patients with Crohn’s disease.”

With a carefully designed meal plan including food such as chicken and rice soup, salmon and mashed potatoes, the experts were able to show that CD-TREAT was beneficial in healthy people and in animals with gut inflammation.

In a different part of the study, three out of five children with active Crohn’s treated in a CD-TREAT pilot entered complete remission on the food-based diet, and their gut inflammation decreased.

For more information on the work of the charity, and to find out how to donate, visit the charity’s website at curecrohnscolitis.org or on Facebook and Twitter @CureCrohnsColitisC3