As reported in EurekAlert, an exciting new treatment method has entered the conversation to treat inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Researchers have successfuly used mice population to show that precision cutting in the gut can be used to eliminate the harmful bacterial buildup, while leaving the other bacteria healthy. This has successfully reduced the inflamation that can cause related colorectal cancers.
Current treatments for inflammatory bowel disease
Inflammatory bowel disease is an umbrella term that covers condition that affects the digestive system through chronic inflamation. This includes Crohns disease or Ulcerative colitis, both of which include symptoms of pain, fever, and digestive relative issues to the appetite which cause diarrhea, weight lose, and abdominal pain. One potential consequence is a heightened risk of colon cancer, with those with the conditions affected at rates from three to seven times more than the average population. Colon cancer is a particularly nasty cancer, as one of the most both common and deadly forms. One reason those with IBD have an increased risk is that they tend to have an imbalance in the bacteria lining the gut, with particular sensitivity to changes in their microbiome communities. This means that while under normal conditions, bacteria such as e-coli can actually act as protection against unhealthy bacteria entering the system, in someone with IBD, it can instead result in a build up that turns into inflamation, and a risk for other diseases.
Those with IBD know this risk and have strategies to manage it. This often consists of treatments that are used once the flare ups have already occured in order to treat the inflamations or using antibiotics that wipe the gut clean of bacteria, killing the good and bad microbiota in the process. While these are done to help prevent cancer and can be effective, they are responsive rather than preventative, and can simulataneously wipe out the healthy part of the gut which acts as part of the immune system.
The new treatment method: precision editing
The researchers from UT Southwestern Medical center have now used mice to show a groundbreaking method of prevention, and have found success in their work. Rather than treating the whole gut and affecting the entire microbe population, this strategy specifically targets the relevant metabolic pathways that create the intestinal inflammation. Because an excess of certain microbes is associated with increased risk, this strategy not only affects the specific pathways but also the specific types of bacteria. This is groundbreaking for the disease community that has never been able to target the harmful bacterial communities in isolation. This study was able to help the mice population that had the bad bacteria, while not damaging the mice population that did not. This means that they have not found adverse affects of the treatment as current methods entail, while effectively addressing the risky build up.
This news is very impactful for the community, who have hope in the new strategy to diminish the relevant tumor formation. While it has not yet gotten to the market, the successful study will continue down this line of research.