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Scientists uncover new potential treatment for Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Irish scientists have discovered a new potential therapeutic approach to Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), a chronic debilitating disease involving inflammation of the intestine which affects more than 15,000 people in Ireland and millions of people worldwide.

People suffering from IBD can experience an array of symptoms ranging from mild discomfort to debilitating disease requiring surgical removal of large parts of the intestine. Current therapeutic options in IBD are very limited and surgery is often the only option.

In the new discovery published in the scientific journal Gastroenterology, the Irish scientists have demonstrated that they can almost completely reverse the symptoms of IBD in a disease model using a new class of drugs known as hydroxylase inhibitors.

“Under normal conditions our gastro-intestinal tract is lined with cells that block the contents of the gut from leaking into the intestine,” explains Professor Cormac Taylor from the UCD Conway Institute, University College Dublin, one of the principal scientists involved in the discovery. “However, when a person is suffering from IBD this barrier is broken and the contents of the gut leak out into surrounding areas.”

“When we applied the new drugs, the gut was tricked into thinking that it was being deprived of oxygen and this activated protective pathways which in turn prevented the death of the cells that line the gastrointestinal tract,” continues Professor Taylor.

While completing their investigation, the Irish researchers became aware of a similar study taking place at the University of Colorado, Denver. This study appears as an accompanying article in the same issue of Gastroenterology. The US study, while using a different hydroxylase inhibitor, supports the Irish scientist’s research findings.

The Irish and US research groups will now begin a collaborative investigation to bring the discovery to the next stage which involves developing a new therapeutic which can be delivered safely to humans.

“By working in collaboration with Sigmoid Biotechnologies, a Dublin based drug delivery company, we intend to focus on developing methods to safely deliver these drugs to their intended target in the inflamed gut,” says Professor Taylor.

“These findings show that cross-university partnerships adopted by the new generation of Science Foundation Ireland funded Irish scientists will help to drive Ireland’s future knowledge economy,” says Professor Padraic Fallon, SFI Stokes Professor, TCD School of Medicine, Trinity College Dublin, the other principal research scientist involved in the Irish discovery.

“If Ireland is to compete at the forefront of scientific discoveries and to develop partnerships with the international biotechnology sector, our scientist must work together in synergy,” continues Professor Fallon.

The Irish research groups led by Professor Taylor at University College Dublin and Dr Fallon at Trinity College Dublin have recently received independent investigator awards from Science Foundation Ireland totalling over €1 million each.

Dominic Martella | alfa
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