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.

Monday, January 16, 2012

IBD Less Common in Sunny States

I've blogged about this before, but there was a recent study that revealed that people who live in sunnier regions of the United States are less likely to develop IBD. It confirms previous research conducted in Europe that generated the similar results. The study followed over 200k participants that began the study without symptoms of IBD.

The basic explanation for this is Vitamin D. There's a strong role for Vitamin D in the immune response and IBD patients (including myself) often have low Vitamin D levels. So stop postponing that vacation to Hawaii already!

Here's an excerpt:

"A leading explanation for this north-south gradient in the risk of ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease may be differences in exposure to sunlight, or UVB radiation, which is generally greater in southern latitudes," wrote Dr. Hamed Khalili, of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and colleagues.

"UV radiation is the greatest environmental determinant of plasma vitamin D, and there is substantial experimental data supporting a role for vitamin D in the innate immunity and regulation of inflammatory response," they noted.