Grant helps determine MRI suitability for Crohn’s disease

European researchers are using a €3m (£2.6m) grant to investigate whether MRI is a suitable tool for monitoring Crohn’s disease.

MRI scans can be used as an alternative to colonoscopy when monitoring the course of the disease and assessing its response to treatment.

Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands (TU Delft) is joining six European partners from the academic world in the VIGOR++ project to develop an objective, quantitative method for assessing these MRI scans.

The researchers expect that this method will enable doctors to more accurately determine the activity level of the disease over time and that it may lead to a reduction in the number of colonoscopies.

Crohn’s disease is characterised by alternating periods of increased and reduced disease activity, so it is necessary to assess the stage of the disease in order to administer the correct treatment.

In order to evaluate Crohn’s disease, doctors ask their patients questions about their condition and carry out a colonoscopy, during which samples of tissue are removed.

However, patients’ answers are not always sufficiently reliable and a colonoscopy procedure is both unpleasant for the patient and less suitable for regular monitoring of the condition.

‘We are going to investigate objective methods to quantitatively determine the severity of the disease using MRI scans,’ said project leader Dr Frans Vos. ‘MRI images make it possible to measure the thickness of the intestinal wall, the degree of vascularisation and to distinguish the various layers of the intestine. These are all indicators of the extent to which Crohn’s disease is active. All that is required is the intravenous administration of a contrast medium.’

TU Delft has taken on a coordinating role in the consortium and is working on the project with the AMC, University College London Hospitals, ETH Zurich, the Zuse Institute in Berlin and British companies Biotroncis3D and Vodera.