Biomedical engineers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison believe that a probiotic “backpack” they have created could improve the treatment for a chronic gut condition inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Scientists have developed a protective covering for the good bacteria in the gut so they can thrive when it comes in contact with the strong acids in the stomach and other microbes. If gut-friendly bacteria survive, they can reproduce and enhance gut health.
Experiments have proven the backpacks to be effective in mice. However, researchers worry that treating IBD can be complicated and need more than just gut microbial communities.
“IBD is a complicated disease, and you need to attack it at different angles,” said Quanyin Hu, a biomedical engineer and professor at the UW–Madison School of Pharmacy, in the university release.
Hu and his team developed special nanoparticles that play the role of a backpack on the good bacteria that are supposed to neutralize IBD-causing molecules. Not only IBD, but the team believes that the invention could ease treatment for other conditions like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
What causes IBD?
While the root causes of IBD are largely unclear and highly complex, one suspect is the molecule known as reactive oxygen species. Overproduction of these molecules can contribute to IBD by damaging the lining of the intestines. While they are needed in a healthy amount, more than enough of these can cause serious inflammation.
Therefore, Hu’s team made nanoparticle backpacks with powerful anti-inflammatory hyaluronic acid and sulfide to directly target these molecules.
The research published in the journal Science Advances shows the effect of the casing on mice. Experts encased the probiotic bacteria Escherichia coli Nissle 1917 in the protective backpacks. They found that the IBD symptoms were significantly relieved with this method of treatment compared to other mice that were not given the pills.
Mice that received the treatment were found to experience less weight loss, which is a common symptom of IBD both in humans and rats. There was also much less colon shortening.
While IBD treatment usually questions the stage and severity of the patient, Hu and his team wanted to develop a more holistic method.
“We didn’t want to target a specific IBD stage,” Hu said. “We wanted to select the most important factors that contribute to curing or treating the disease at whatever stage.”
If the research team is successful in their endeavors, IBD could be treated with simply one pill. It will provide an alternative to invasive forms of treatment like the removal of the colon. It can also help patients psychologically by providing treatment via one drug compared to several medicines that patients currently take.