Research provides new hope for those suffering from Crohn's disease

March 21, 2012, University of Calgary

Researchers from the Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI) and the Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases at the University of Calgary's Faculty of Medicine have discovered a pathway that may contribute to the symptoms related to Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, collectively known as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). This research is a major milestone in developing future drug therapies for those living with these debilitating disorders.

The digestive process is complex. To coordinate the many functions involved in digestion, the gut has its own set of (neurons), often called the "second brain". Crohn's disease is characterized by inflammation in the gut, leading to damage or death of millions of these neurons lining the . As a consequence, patients are left with a host of debilitating symptoms including abdominal pain and numerous disruptive digestive conditions. Using translatable animal models, these new research findings have identified "pannexins" as molecules that mediate gut and, as such, may allow for the development of new treatments to prevent it.

"Our work identifies a critical mechanism of neuron death in intestinal inflammation that appears relevant to IBD," says Brian Gulbransen, PhD, the study's lead author and a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Calgary's HBI. "We used animal models of to show that blocking the "pannexins" was able to prevent gut neuron death. Interestingly, we found the "pannexins" involved in the death of mouse gut neurons are also present in neurons."

Canada has one of the highest incidences of IBD in the world and it affects over 200,000 Canadians. Previously, researchers could not identify the cause of gut neuron death, and therefore no therapeutic strategies exist to prevent it. Current IBD treatment options are limited to controlling inflammation, which frequently leaves patients to still suffer with chronic gut dysfunction. "Although our research will not cure IBD, these findings could lead to developing therapeutics for the debilitating symptoms in those who suffer from Crohn's disease," says Keith Sharkey PhD, the senior author of the paper, the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of Canada Chair in IBD Research, and member of the Snyder Institute and Deputy Director of the HBI, at the University of Calgary.

This study is published in the April print edition of the prestigious journal Nature Medicine (available online March 19th).

Explore further: Inflammatory bowel disease emerges as a global disease

Related Stories

Inflammatory bowel disease emerges as a global disease

January 4, 2012
The incidence and prevalence of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are increasing with time and in different regions around the world, according to a new study in Gastroenterology, the official journal of the American Gastroenterological ...

Recommended for you

Chronic inflammation causes loss of muscle mass during aging

January 12, 2018
People start losing muscle mass at the age of 40—about some 10 percent of the total muscle mass for each 10-year period, which may lead to fall-related injuries, slowing metabolism and reduced quality of life. Today, very ...

Breathing exercises help asthma patients with quality of life

December 13, 2017
A study led by the University of Southampton has found that people who continue to get problems from their asthma, despite receiving standard treatment, experience an improved quality of life when they are taught breathing ...

Study highlights the need for research into prevention of inflammatory bowel disease

December 7, 2017
Countries in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and South America have seen a rise in incidence of inflammatory bowel disease as they have become increasingly industrialised and westernised, a new study has found.

Air pollution can increase asthma risk in adults, even at low levels

November 24, 2017
Living close to a busy road can be bad for your respiratory health if you are middle aged, new Australian research has found.

Evidence found of oral bacteria contributing to bowel disorders

October 20, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—An international team of researchers has found evidence that suggests certain types of oral bacteria may cause or exacerbate bowel disorders. In their paper published in the journal Science, the group describes ...

New compound discovered in fight against inflammatory disease

September 22, 2017
A 10-year study by University of Manchester scientists for a new chemical compound that is able to block a key component in inflammatory illness has ended in success.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.