- About 6.8 million people globally have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
- Researchers from UT Southwestern Medical Center have discovered how a set of molecules in the body affect IBD.
- Scientists believe their findings could be used to develop a new drug to treat IBD.
There is currently no cure for IBD. Treatments for IBD generally include medications that reduce inflammation as well as lifestyle changes and sometimes surgery.
Now, a research team from UT Southwestern Medical Center in Texas says they have discovered a potential new drug target for treating IBD centered on a pathway involving a cellular protein called Pak2 and an immune protein called IL-17.
There are two main diseases under the term IBD.
- Ulcerative colitis causes inflammation of the
- Crohn’s disease irritates the tissues of the entire
People who have IBD can experience a number of different symptoms at different times and with different severities. The
- abdominal pain
- rectal bleeding and/or blood in stool
- diarrhea that does not stop
- weight loss
IBD is generally diagnosed through a combination of blood and stool tests as well as imaging tests such as X-rays, CT scans, and MRI scans.
For this study, researchers focused on two different types of proteins that occur naturally inside the body.
The first is an immune molecule called
Researchers have been developing IL-17 inhibiting drug therapies for certain diseases, including
The second molecule is
In their recent study, scientists utilized a mouse model to examine the roles of IL-17 and Pak2 in IBD.
According to Dr. Venuprasad Poojary, an associate professor in the Division of Digestive and Liver Diseases at UT Southwestern as well as a member of the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center and lead author of the recent study, researchers found IL-17 was heightened in the worst cases of IBD.
“Our research found that blocking Pak2 led to weight loss and colon inflammation in mice,” he explained to Medical News Today. “Further experiments revealed that Pak2 binds to
During the study, researchers found that while RORgt accelerated inflammation by boosting levels of IL-17, Pak2 helped to introduce a structural change to RORgt that prevented it from activating the IL-17 gene.
“We clearly showed that turning up [the Pak2] pathway can inhibit colon inflammation and we think this pathway could be targeted to attenuate this inflammation as well,” Poojary said.
Poojary said their findings could lead to the development of new therapeutic strategies with IL-17 expression and hopefully be available to people with IBD in the next four to five years.
“My lab is planning follow-up studies to develop drugs that could encourage the Pak2 (to place) brakes on inflammation,” he said. “The research could (also) have implications for other inflammatory diseases including multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.”
Medical News Today also spoke with Dr. Rudolph Bedford, a gastroenterologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in California, about this study.
“I think that we are moving into a different age of treatment for inflammatory bowel disease,” he explained. “Patients will be much more comfortable taking oral medications as opposed to injections every so often.”
“We already use (IL-17) drugs in treating psoriasis and other types of
For the next steps in this research, Bedford said he would like to see more long-term studies on the effects and “comparative studies to the medications that we have now and that we’re using now.”