Scientists uncover new therapeutic target for bowel disease

December 9th, 2008 - 5:56 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Dec 9 (ANI): University of Edinburgh researchers have identified a potential therapeutic target that may hold a key to new therapies for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

They believe a chemical messenger that is essential for developing a baby’’s gut in the womb could hold the key to new treatments for painful the bowel disorders.

The team analysed a chain of chemical reactions inside colon cells, called the Hedgehog signalling pathway, which controls the way it behaves and communicates with other cells.

They found that some patients with IBD inherit a defective copy of one of the important links in this chain, a gene called GLI1.

This defective GLI1 is only half as active as normal. Additionally, the Hedgehog pathway itself signals at lower levels than normal when the large bowel is inflamed.

It is believed that the GLI1 protein may calm inflammation within the healthy colon, and that this process appears to go wrong in IBD patients, causing their gut to become inflamed.

The researchers hope to test whether strengthening this weakened protein will help prevent or treat inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

“Everybody has billions of bacteria in the gut, the vast majority of which do us no harm. Our body’’s natural immune responses identify and eliminate harmful bacteria, whilst living in harmony with the healthy bacteria, said Dr. Charlie Lees from the University’’s Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine, who led the study.

But in people with inflammatory bowel disease, that response goes wrong and an over-active immune response against these healthy bacteria leads to chronic inflammation in the gut.

“It now seems that the Hedgehog signalling pathway, and specifically the GLI1 protein, is crucial to that response. We think it provides an important signal to certain types of immune cells in the gut wall, instructing them to adopt an anti-inflammatory state.

If we can find ways to bolster these responses in people with IBD, we may be able to help prevent the painful attacks which are so devastating to patients,” Lees added. (ANI)

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