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The crippling impact of Crohn’s

For more than 80,000 Australians, Crohn’s disease infiltrates every aspect of life. There is currently no cure for Crohn’s disease, which involves severe inflammation and swelling of the intestines.

Those with the condition manage pain, tiredness, weight loss and lack of appetite with steroids and immunosuppressants.

Joel was diagnosed with Crohn’s in 2001 at just 16 and has tried multiple drug treatments, each failing after a few years.

Joel explained: “The steroids work but only while you’re on them. As soon as you stop, you relapse. Steroids also have a lot of side effects – which are almost as bad as the disease itself.”

Bionics Institute researchers are working to find an alternative treatment for Crohn’s disease.

Our team has developed a small, implantable medical device that stimulates the vagus nerve and kick-starts the body’s natural anti-inflammatory response.

This technology could prevent recurrence of Crohn’s disease and provide an alternative to drug therapies, which can cause crippling side effects.

One of the side effects Joel experienced was anxiety.

“No-one told me that I would have anxiety from the drugs, so I didn’t know that’s what was happening … I thought there was something wrong with me,” Joel said.

“It got to the point where I didn’t want to go anywhere because I was anxious all the time and I was having panic attacks when I was in public – so I just isolated myself a lot.”


It’s such a blessing that people have a passion for this problem and are working to develop a cure Joel

Like more than 80% of people with Crohn’s, Joel eventually needed surgery to remove damaged sections of his bowel, as drug therapies were no longer effective. He had two operations to remove approximately 100cm of small bowel.

After recovering from the second surgery, his Crohn’s returned in just 6 months.

“So now I’m in the position where I have an uncertain future as the doctors are running out of options,” he said.

While having Crohn’s disease has made him appreciate the good things in life, Joel would welcome a new treatment so that those in his position don’t have to go through the same journey.

“It’s such a blessing that people have a passion for this problem and are working to develop a cure”.

Learn more about our Crohn’s disease research here.

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