BSPGHAN/CLDF research Grants 2016

Joint BSPGHAN/CLDF Start-up Research Grants 2016

In 2016, BSPGHAN and Children’s Liver Disease Foundation (CLDF) joined forces to co-fund two start-up research grants, each for £10,000, with an overall aim of encouraging research in liver disease in children and young people. The aim was to support preliminary research that will contribute significantly to a subsequent larger research grant proposal. One grant was specifically for research in Biliary Atresia but there were no restrictions on the scope of the second grant. Projects could be stand-alone or linked to one or more existing studies. All Members and Associate Members of BSPGHAN were eligible to apply.

The following two projects were supported

Congenital porto-systemic shunts and the development of liver tumours; Professor Richard Thompson, King’s College Hospital, London.

“Congenital porto-systemic shunts (CPSS) are rare malformations increasingly being detected with the improvement in ultrasound technology and its widespread use,” said Professor Thompson. “Portal venous blood from the intestines, pancreas, and spleen is partially or completely shunted away from the liver into the central circulation. In some cases the hepatic artery, which contains blood with higher oxygen saturation, takes on the role of the main nutrient supply to the liver (normally the portal vein). These anatomic differences result in a change in the microenvironment of the liver sinusoids. Although the mechanisms are unclear, there appears to be a markedly increased risk of developing both benign and importantly, malignant liver tumours.

 “At Kings we have one of the largest clinical series of patients with CPSS in the western world and have a unique opportunity to not only describe their clinical outcomes but to perform a comprehensive, retrospective histological and molecular analysis on resected tumours and liver biopsies acquired and stored from this series. This would enable accurate risk stratification of tumours in these patients, and give us a better understanding of when invasive treatments such as surgery are indicated.

“This not only gives us the potential to improve patients’ clinical outcomes but findings from the molecular analysis of these tumours will contribute to the body of knowledge in the pathogenesis of related liver tumours.”

Association of stool microbial profile with short-term outcome in infants with biliary atresia; Professor Anil Dhawan and Dr Vandana Jain, King’s College Hospital, London.

“Biliary atresia (BA) is a disease of infancy where a progressive inflammatory destructive process of the bile-producing tubes within the liver leads to jaundice and liver inflammation. A surgical procedure, ‘Kasai Portoenterostomy’ (KP) performed in the first two months of life, re-plumbs the liver to the gut and can help unblock bile tubes,” explained Dr Jain.

“However by two years of age, nearly 50% of these infants will have deterioration of liver disease, requiring a liver transplant. In this project we aim to study the gut bacteria in newly diagnosed patients who undergo KP at different time points over 18 months, and correlate the type/communities of bacteria with the severity of liver disease. Gut bacteria from healthy infants will also be studied as controls.

“We predict that there is a difference in gut bacterial populations between healthy BA, unhealthy BA needing a transplant and healthy control infants. The results from this project may enable targeting of appropriate antibiotics/probiotics to newly diagnosed BA infants, in order to improve their gut bacteria and prevent deterioration of their liver condition. Improving the outcome in BA and reducing liver transplantation would significantly reduce the burden of this high-risk disease on the child and family.”

Chief Executive of CLDF, Alison Taylor, commented: “By joining forces with BSPGHAN we aim to support preliminary research that will contribute significantly to a subsequent larger research grant proposal. We are excited to be funding studies of this calibre and look forward to hearing the outcomes.”

Chair of the Joint BSPGHAN/NIHR-Children Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition Research Working Group, Stephen Allen, commented: “This new partnership with CLDF has produced immediate results. We look forward to working more closely together in the future to have an even greater impact on research in liver disease in children.”

We hope to be able to run a similar joint start-up grant scheme in 2018

Further information, contact Mairead Ritchie on 0121 212 6012 or

For more information on CLDF visit

Stephen Allen
Joint BSPGHAN/NIHR-Children Research Working Group
  Alison Taylor
Children's Liver Disease Foundation