08 December 2017

Researcher in quest for gut insights

A WA Health researcher is on a quest to discover whether aspects of childhood, such as diet, birthweight, family characteristics and even temperament as a toddler, might influence the development of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in later life.

Dr Oyekoya Ayonrinde, Dr Nathan Harvey, Dr Andrew Martin
Dr Oyekoya Ayonrinde, Dr Nathan Harvey and Dr Andrew Martin

IBS is among the most common gastrointestinal complaints seen in general practice and while patients usually present as adolescents or adults, Fiona Stanley Hospital consultant gastroenterologist Oyekoya Ayonrinde believes the condition may originate in the patient’s formative years.

Dr Ayonrinde is one of four WA Health clinicians awarded a Department of Health/Raine Foundation Clinician Research Fellowship in the latest round of the program announced today.

He will use his fellowship to explore links between IBS and various circumstances of childhood, drawing on data from Western Australia’s long-running Raine Study. The longitudinal cohort project is a rich resource of data for researchers, having tracked the health and wellbeing of almost 3000 individuals born between 1989 and 1992 from before birth through to infancy, childhood, adolescence and adulthood.

Dr Ayonrinde revealed that information gathered on cohort participants through periodic questionnaires and assessments included the diagnostic criteria for IBS as well as medications taken (including antibiotics), infant nutrition (including breast milk and formula), stressful life situations, medical diagnoses and behavioural disturbances.

IBS is characterised by symptoms of abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhoea and/or constipation and is thought to affect between 10 to 15 per cent of the general population.

Dr Ayonrinde hopes his research, which extends collaborations between gastroenterology, dietetics and psychology, will reveal associations that could ultimately lead to improved interventions for patients.

He is also hopeful it will reduce the need for endoscopic procedures which are frequently used to rule out more serious gastrointestinal conditions such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease and cancer.

Now in its sixth year, the Clinician Research Fellowship program is an initiative of the Department of Health in conjunction with the Raine Medical Research Foundation.

The program provides funding for up to three years and can be up to $150,000 a year, depending on the extent of the research proposal and the applicant’s salary. The clinicians are required to continue some of their clinical duties during the period of their Fellowship.

Assistant Director General Clinical Excellence Division, Dr James Williamson, said Dr Ayonrinde’s project highlighted the important research being undertaken by clinician researchers working within Western Australia’s public health system.

Clinician Research Fellowship round six recipients are:

Dr Oyekoya Ayonrinde
Consultant Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist, Fiona Stanley Hospital
Project: The Epidemiology, Origins and Associations of Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Adolescents
Project summary
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common, gastrointestinal problem in which patients suffer with abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhoea or constipation or both. Investigations for IBS are negative. IBS is associated with diet composition and stressful life events. IBS causes significant distress, interference with employment, education or recreation to sufferers. IBS in adults is considered to have its origins in childhood. We intend examining the prevalence of IBS in Western Australian adolescents in the Raine Cohort Study, which comprises 2900 individuals followed up from birth and frequently through childhood into adulthood, including diet, health and lifestyle questionnaires and physical examination data.

Dr Nathan Harvey
Consultant Anatomical Pathologist, PathWest
Project: Lymphovascular Invasion of Cutaneous Squamous Cell Carcinoma in Renal Transplant Patients
Project summary
Squamous cell carcinoma is a common type of skin cancer in Australia. In many patients these skin cancers are small and can be removed with relatively minor surgery. However, people who have received kidney transplants are prone to develop aggressive cancers, which are more likely to spread to other organs. In this study we will investigate particular microscopic findings which we anticipate will identify which cancers might behave in a more aggressive fashion. We hope that this will allow those patients to receive extra treatment at an early stage to prevent further spread.

Dr Andrew Martin
Consultant Paediatrician, Princess Margaret Hospital
Project: Feasibility and acceptability of screening children for inherited hypercholesterolaemia
Project summary
Inherited causes of high cholesterol run in families and those affected are at increased risk of suffering heart attacks in early adult life. Unfortunately, despite major advances in the knowledge of these conditions, more than 80% of adults and 95% of children are unaware they have high cholesterol. Once diagnosed these conditions are however, easily treatable. In this study we will trial a new approach to improve the detection of children with inherited high cholesterol. We will perform cholesterol screening of children whose first (parent) or second-degree (grandparent or aunt/uncle) relative has suffered a heart attack under age 60 years.

Dr Warren Pavey
Staff Specialist Anaesthetist, Fiona Stanley Hospital
Project: Supercooled Storage for Extended Preservation of Hearts – A pilot study in a rodent
Project summary
Storing hearts for much longer than the conventional limit of six hours would allow greater organ sharing, better matching, fewer wasted organs and recipient benefits such as not having to remain within short distances of transplant centres. Supercooling is cooling of a liquid below its freezing point without it becoming a solid. This project examines supercooling, as a method of extending heart, storage outside the body in a rat model. A successful outcome will form the platform for extending the current heart preservation limits from 6 hours to multiple days with translation potential to large animal models and humans.

ENDS

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