Scientists find new drug to treat inflammatory bowel disease

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Researchers have discovered an interesting “brake” mechanism in the immune cells of our gut that could be key to treating inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

By understanding this natural “stop” signal for inflammation, scientists hope to develop more targeted treatments for these conditions.

The Puzzle of Inflammation in the Gut

Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs) like Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis cause painful and chronic inflammation in the digestive system.

While some treatments are available, they often suppress the immune system all over the body, leading to unpleasant side effects and making people more prone to infections.

That’s why doctors and researchers are keen to find treatments that specifically target the gut.

The “Brake” Protein in Gut Cells

The study was led by Dr. Venuprasad Poojary at UT Southwestern. His team knew that an immune molecule called IL-17 is often found in high levels in people with severe IBD symptoms.

Drugs that lower IL-17 have been used to treat skin conditions like psoriasis but haven’t worked well for IBD. So, the researchers started looking for other molecules that interact with IL-17 in the gut.

What they found was quite interesting. There’s a protein called Pak2 in the gut’s immune cells. Think of Pak2 like the brakes on a car.

When the researchers blocked Pak2 in mice, the animals developed symptoms similar to IBD, such as weight loss and colon inflammation. On the flip side, when Pak2 was present, it reduced these symptoms.

Dr. Poojary and his team discovered that Pak2 works by binding to another protein called RORgt. While RORgt acts like a gas pedal, speeding up inflammation by increasing IL-17, Pak2 slows it down by “turning off” RORgt.

Next Steps and Wider Implications

Now, the research team is working on developing drugs that could tap into the Pak2 “brake” to control inflammation more effectively.

Dr. Poojary mentioned that their findings could help treat other inflammatory diseases as well, such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Understanding how to apply the “brake” in our body’s immune cells opens up a new avenue for targeted, effective treatment.

It’s a promising step forward in the quest to improve life for millions of people suffering from chronic inflammatory conditions.

If you care about bowel health, please read studies about High blood pressure drug linked to bowel disease and findings of Gut Bacteria change found in people with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease.

If you care about gut health, please read studies about a major cause of leaky gut, and fatty liver disease, and eating nuts may help reduce risks of gut lesions and cancer.

The research findings can be found in Cell Reports.

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