Friday, May 31, 2013

Western Diet Triggers Colitis in Those at Risk

Heard of a study that was being published last year (although I can't seem to dig it up -- maybe you can) in Nature suggesting that western diets high in certain fats increases the risk of colitis in those that are genetically predisposed.  It might explain why we're seeing a higher incidence of the disease as more people switch to the western diet.  The introduction of these high amounts of fats causes an imbalance in gut bacteria, which could contribute to the onset of the disease.

Here's an excerpt:
Researchers at the University of Chicago found that concentrated milk fats, which are abundant in processed and confectionary foods, alter the composition of bacteria in the intestines. These changes can disrupt the delicate truce between the immune system and the complex but largely beneficial mix of bacteria in the intestines. The emergence of harmful bacterial strains in this setting can unleash an unregulated tissue-damaging immune response that can be difficult to switch off.
“This is the first plausible mechanism showing step-by-step how Western-style diets contribute to the rapid and ongoing increase in the incidence of inflammatory bowel disease," said study author Eugene B. Chang, MD, PhD, the Martin Boyer Professor of Medicine at the University of Chicago. “We know how certain genetic differences can increase the risk for these diseases, but moving from elevated risk to the development of disease seems to require a second event which may be encountered because of our changing lifestyle."


And here's the article: Western Diet Triggers Colitis in Those at Risk

DIY Fecal Transplants

Been a while since I posted.  Continuing on the news related to fecal transplants, a friend forwarded me this post about how do-it-yourself fecal transplants have become quite common amongst people with GI issues.  In particular, it references a study where 94% of patients suffering from C. Difficile infection were cured with a transplant.  Apparently the FDA is evaluating whether fecal transplants are safe, so that has pushed it "underground", which means that folks find ways to do it themselves.  The whole idea makes a lot of sense.  Very curious to see how the FDA proceeds with it.

Here's the article: Why DIY fecal transplants are a thing (and the FDA is only part of the reason)

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Curing Gut Problems with Synthetic Pseudo-Poo

Read an interesting article about artificial poop transplants. The basic idea is very similar to traditional fecal transplants. To restore the normal balance of gut bacteria, you introduce fecal matter from a healthy patient into the intestines of an unhealthy patient.

Looks like researchers have introduced an artificial version of the fecal matter that is grown in the lab. It's less gross and safer for the patient.

Here's the full article: http://m.popsci.com/science/article/2013-01/scientists-develop-synthetic-pseudo-poo-fecal-transplants

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Gut Infections May Be Linked to Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Came across a really interesting article about some new research that suggests that gut infections could be a trigger sending the immune system into a downward spiral where it can't distinguish between good and bad bacteria in the gut.

The hypothesis (that still needs to be confirmed) is that a gut infection potentially causes good bacteria to act strangely (e.g. overgrowing), your gut to be leaky (i.e. let bacteria invade other parts of your body like your bloodstream), and then your immune system is forced to respond to these bacteria and start treating them as bad.  At that point, your body has trained itself to treat these good bacteria as bad bacteria, and then your immune system is just totally thrown off.

I blogged about this before, but I had several serious bouts of food poisoning when I was younger and I've often wondered if those events threw my system off.  Interesting research though.

Here's an excerpt:

Most likely, Hand said, the immune system is indirectly responsible for spreading the good gut bacteria around. A strong immune response can damage body cells, including the gut cells that usually keep beneficial bacteria on the inside of the intestines. 
Once the parasite infection is over, the researchers found, the immune system locks in a memory of the invaders it fought in memory T cells. These cells are able to mount a fast immune response if they encounter the same pathogens for a second or third time. 
Unfortunately, the T cells remember the beneficial gut bacteria as well as the parasite, the researchers report online today (Aug. 23) in the journal Science. This memory seems to last as long as the mouse lives, Hand said.


Healthy Labs launches social network for people with Crohn's

I'm in the tech industry in Silicon Valley myself, but this one slipped past me surprisingly.  Catching up on my news, I came across the launch of a new social network that allows people with Crohn's to track their health and share experience with others in an online community.  The company that launched it is called Healthy Labs.  They called the site Crohnology.

Here's an article about the launch of the site.  And here's a link to Healthy Labs.

Congrats to Healthy Labs on the site!  Great idea!

Pig Parasite To Be Trialled As Treatment For Crohn's Disease

Saw this article about a clinical trial starting to test pig whipworm eggs as a treatment for Crohn's.  Here's an excerpt:
TSO is a new drug, taken by mouth, that contains microscopic eggs of the pig whipworm parasite. It acts as a natural regulator of the immune system, by controlling T-cells, a group of white blood cells, and cytokines, signalling proteins that deal with inflammation, among other things.
In a pig, the eggs grow into whipworms and reproduce, without causing harm to the animal. In a human, the same eggs live no more than two weeks. But in that time, they appear able to influence the host immune system and stop it attacking tissue and organs.
Seems interesting.  Reminds me of helminthic therapy -- although doesn't sound like the worms stick around past two weeks.  Hints to a lack of diversity of bacteria and other organisms in our gut.

Biologics for Inflammatory Bowel Disease Increase Risk for Melanoma

Been a long time since I posted.  Came across this article.  Here's an excerpt:
Patients with IBD had a higher incidence of melanoma than controls; this association was significant in patients with Crohn disease (incidence rate ratio, 1.45) but not in patients with UC (IRR, 1.13). Researchers observed a trend of increasing risk for melanoma in patients with IBD over time. In a nested case-control analysis, any use of a biologic anti–tumor necrosis factor (anti-TNF) agent was associated with an almost twofold increased risk for melanoma, unlike thiopurines or 5-aminosalicylic acid (5-ASA) medications, for which no associations were observed. The risk for NMSC was increased by almost twofold in patients who used any thiopurine, but was not significantly increased in patients who used anti-TNF agents.
Makes sense that there are side-effects of using biologics.