Patients suffering from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are being invited to take part in a new research study that aims to unearth the genetic causes behind the illness.

The study by the life sciences company, Genomics Medicine Ireland (GMI) in partnership with St Vincent's University Hospital, UCD Clinical Research Centre and Tallaght Hospital will try to identify genetic markers that can help diagnose and predict disease severity.

The research will also help to identify personalised treatments for the 20,000 people in Ireland suffering from the two forms of the disease, Crohn's disease and Ulcerative colitis (UC).

Both are life-long chronic inflammatory gastrointestinal disorders primarily affecting adults and neither has a cure.

The conditions are associated with heightened mortality and an increased risk of colon cancer.

IBD is known to have a genetic component through previous research that points to the NOD2 gene in Crohn's disease.

But scientists and clinicians believe there are more genes involved in the condition yet to be identified.

GMI will use whole genome sequencing to study the underlying genetic changes that lead to different forms of IBD.

The team of scientists will also study the structural changes in the genome and the linkages to the risk of developing the disease, as well as the progression of it and the response of drugs to it.

This, according to gastroenterologists could help lead to more personalised medicines for treating or even curing the illness.

The study is open to IBD patients attending  St. Vincent's University Hospital or Tallaght Hospital and it is hoped further hospitals could be added in the future.

Patients who are interested should ask their consultants in those hospitals for more details.