A UCL-led research project, which will use revolutionary cell therapy to try and establish a cure for faecal incontinence, has been awarded ¤9.5m in EU funding.
Faecal incontinence, sometimes known as bowel incontinence, is a debilitating condition which affects an estimated 67 million people in Europe. It is often caused by damage to the muscles around the anus and commonly occurs in women after childbirth.
The funding has been awarded to a consortium of 13 organisations across nine countries called AMELIE (Anchored Muscle cELls for IncontinencE).
The regenerative medicine project will focus on taking the patient’s own muscle cells, loading them onto specially designed polymer beads and implanting them into the damaged muscle to promote regeneration and restore normal function.
Professor Richard Day (UCL Medicine), who is co-ordinating the project, said: "We are very excited by the prospect of the AMELIE project and the potential benefits that may arise from the new therapeutic approach being investigated.
" We look forward to working with the exceptional consortium of academics, clinicians, industry and charity partners from across Europe to develop our pioneering regenerative medicine approach for treating this debilitating condition. This will be a radical and innovative approach never before attempted at such a scale."
Other partners in the UK include Queen Mary University of London, NHS Blood and Transplant and the charity Bowel Research UK, which will take the lead in patient involvement.
The research will be conducted over five years, with separate institutions in the UK, Spain and Portugal taking the lead role at each new stage.
Lesley Booth MBE, Director of Research and PPI at Bowel Research UK, said that, whilst the condition is extremely common, it is not much talked about.
"The reality of living with faecal incontinence can be devastating. It is definitely life-limiting. And the fact that it’s a condition which people don’t discuss freely just adds to the difficulties of leading a normal life," she said.
"Finding a therapy which works would not just be a major medical breakthrough, it would be life-changing for millions."
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.