Approximately 3.1 million people in the U.S. are living with inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD. It's a disruptive condition that can cause chronic inflammation in part or all of the digestive tract, leading to abdominal pain and diarrhea.
Now, researchers have found a key to potentially shutting off the disease and its symptoms.
Scott Dillingham is always on the run.
"Most of my life revolves around family activities, and that family includes two very active daughters and two very active dogs," Dillingham said.
But living with IBD for nearly 25 years has had him always running to the bathroom.
"I suddenly found myself experiencing pretty dramatic symptoms, like urgency and blood and was really quite scared," he said.
Now, researchers at the University of Chicago have identified a molecule called Divertin, which blocks an enzyme from breaking down the intestinal barrier.
When that barrier breaks down U of C professor Dr. David Rubin says the "immune system reacts to it and may think that's it under attack."
That causes inflammation that can lead to IBD conditions, such as Crohn's and ulcerative colitis.
"So, if you can use this small molecule almost like a key to block that enzyme from breaking down the barrier, you can actually enhance or protect that barrier," Rubin said.
That can prevent IBD and relapses.
For Dillingham, who takes immunosuppressants to keep his symptoms at bay, the discovery was terrific news.
"Immunosuppressants leave you exposed to all sorts of other complications down the road," he said. "Being untethered from that dependency would be life-changing."
The researchers say using the divertin molecule to enhance the intestinal barrier may also help with other diseases, such as celiac disease, graft-versus-host disease and multiple sclerosis.
TOPIC: 4635 NEW DISCOVERY TO CALM IBD
REPORT: MB #1234
BACKGROUND: Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a term for two conditions (Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis) that are characterized by chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Prolonged inflammation results in damage to the GI tract. Some of the differences between Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis: Crohn's disease can affect any part of the GI tract (from the mouth to the anus). Most often it affects the portion of the small intestine before the large intestine/colon. Ulcerative Colitis occurs in the large intestine (colon) and the rectum. (Source: https://www.cdc.gov/ibd/what-is-IBD.htm)
TREATMENT: Medications typically are the first line of treatment for Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. There are several types of drugs that can help control inflammation in the digestive tract. While these medications do not cure inflammatory bowel disease, they can alleviate or eliminate symptoms and lead to remission. In some cases, surgery may be necessary. Patients with Crohn's disease may need surgery for strictures, fistula and/or bowel obstruction. Some patients with Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis may eventually require complete removal of the large intestine. Your physician may discuss dietary changes. Although there is no data to suggest that diet causes or cures IBD, reducing or increasing intake of certain foods may help to decrease symptoms. (Source: https://www.uchicagomedicine.org/conditions-services/inflammatory-bowel-disease/treatment)
NEW RESEARCH: David Rubin, MD, Professor of Medicine at the University of Chicago talked about using the molecule divertin, "If it's a small molecule that means that it's small enough to get absorbed in the small intestine and get into the bloodstream. And I don't know enough about how they're thinking to develop the molecule further, whether it's something that would circulate in our bloodstream and then work where it's needed or whether it actually might work better if it's delivered topically. And what I mean by topically is that we use a delivery system in a capsule or a tablet where it won't release the molecule until it gets all the way down into the intestine where it's needed. There are ways we do that now with some of our other anti- inflammatory treatments. So, if it works more on the lining of the bowel maybe that's a better way to deliver this molecule- to get it in by having it released on the surface of the intestine where it can work better." (Source: David Rubin, MD)