Probiotic 'backpacks' can treat inflammatory bowel disease at any stage

Representational Image
Representational Image File/GK

New Delhi: Well-equipped, gut-friendly bacteria can help treat inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), including Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, according to a new study.

Combined with probiotics, nanoparticle backpacks could significantly improve, and simplify, IBD treatments, according to research at the University of Wisconsin Madison in the US which was led by Quanyin Hu, a biomedical engineer and professor.

"IBD is a complicated disease, and you need to attack it at different angles," said Hu in a paper published in the journal Science Advances.

Hu and his colleagues devised specialised nanoparticles to neutralise molecules implicated in IBD.

They've also figured out a way of attaching these nanoparticle "backpacks" to beneficial bacteria after encasing them in the protective coating.

The nanoparticle backpacks are part sulfide and part hyaluronic acid. The acid is powerfully anti-inflammatory, and the sulfide directly targets the reactive oxygen species. Conducted in mice, the researchers estimated the effects of the treatments in two ways: by measuring changes in weight and changes in the colon length of mice with IBD that did and did not receive the treatment.

Like humans, mice with IBD commonly experience weight loss and colon shortening as the disease progresses.

Hu and his colleagues found that mice that received the full treatment experienced the least amount of weight loss and much less colon shortening than their counterparts that received partial or no treatments.

"We didn't want to target a specific IBD stage. We wanted to select the most important factors that contribute to curing or treating the disease at whatever stage," said Hu.

Additionally, the treatment is administered orally, which could make it a palatable alternative to other more invasive forms of IBD treatment such as partial or complete remove of the colon.

While the results are promising, it will be some time before the treatments are tested in humans.

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