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Living with Crohn’s disease is a constant struggle for Sara

The symptoms of Crohn’s disease can be debilitating and while drug therapies provide temporary relief, most people living with the condition end up needing invasive surgery.

Sara first suspected something wasn’t quite right after giving birth to her second child back in 2017. Her condition causes her body to attack its own tissues, which creates inflammation of the digestive tract.

“I was constantly sick with colds and flus,” she remembers. “Then in 2018, I developed a cough that wouldn’t go away and I was always feeling out of breath.”

“By 2019 I had debilitating stomach pains all the time. I was going to the toilet ten times a day, and each time I did, it felt like I was passing glass.”

For a number of years, doctors struggled to pinpoint the cause of Sara’s pain and discomfort. In the meantime, her symptoms continued to worsen. The debilitating symptoms of the disease can include severe abdominal pain, diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss and malnutrition. At its worst, the condition can be life-threatening.

Sara explains, “I couldn’t hold down solid food and I was in constant, excruciating pain. I tried to keep life normal, but most days that was impossible. I was in so much pain I couldn’t look after my own kids without help. That broke my heart.” Sara’s diagnosis hit her hard: “I was very angry, and my anxiety hit an all-time high. Mentally, I was in a pretty dark place.”

Sara’s diagnosis hit her hard and to make things harder, none of the treatments that her specialists tried initially seemed to be making much difference to Sara’s condition.

“They put me straight on steroids, then tried a range of different drug treatments, but none of them really worked. And my symptoms always came back. I was worried that would mean I’d have to have major surgery, which would only ever be a temporary solution. I was afraid I’d have to live the rest of my life knowing that the terrible symptoms could come back at any time, and I’d need further surgeries.”

There is currently no cure and while drug therapies can provide some temporary relief, 80% of people living with the condition end up needing invasive surgery to remove diseased parts of their bowels.

Unfortunately, the benefits of surgery are temporary, and the disease returns for 70% of patients within ten years of surgery, despite ongoing drug therapies.


As things stand, there’s very little doctors can do to ease my symptoms. The Bionics Institute’s research into innovative new treatments give people like me hope of a better future. Sara

With his team at the Bionics Institute, Professor Fallon has developed a new medical device with the potential to reduce the impact of inflammatory conditions such as Crohn’s disease.

It is designed to be attached to the vagus nerve, which runs from the brain to thegut. The nerve has branches to almost every organ and controls many of the body’s processes.

One of the vagus nerve’s most important jobs is to stimulate the immune system. If it detects inflammation in the body, the nerve initiates an anti-inflammatory response.

By stimulating the vagus nerve in peeople with Crohn’s disease, the implant activates natural processes in the body that lead to a reduction in the activity of inflammatory cells in the gut.

Professor Fallon says the device has the potential to prevent the debilitating symptoms for people like Sara.

“By preventing inflammation from damaging the gut, our implant would allow patients to continue living their lives without pain and without the fear of invasive surgery,” he says. “It has the potential to transform the lives of people suffering from the disease.”

The device is one of many pioneering treatments the Bionics Institute are developing which use the body’s natural mechanisms, bringing relief with the added advantage of causing fewer side effects than existing drug therapies.

Sara understands that research like Professor Fallon’s holds the key to relieving her pain and discomfort and giving her the chance to live as normal a life as possible.

Learn more about our research.

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