NUI Galway CÚRAM research will advance treatment of Crohn’s disease

A healing gel for inflamed cells to significantly improve treatment of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Credit: Maciek Doczyk
Jan 28 2022 Posted: 05:41 GMT

A team of researchers at CÚRAM, the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices at NUI Galway, have discovered a radically new approach to the treatment of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. 

The study, published in Advanced Science, identified a groundbreaking therapeutic strategy for restoring the lining of the intestine of patients with the condition and other inflammatory bowel diseases. 

The treatment could also help prevent further inflammation, which is how the disease progresses and worsens over time. 

The NUI Galway CÚRAM researchers have designed a hyaluronan (HA) enema, which has shown significant potential in protecting against damage to the intestinal lining by decreasing inflammation and aiding in the maintenance of the health of the intestinal lining. 

Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, or IBD, is characterised by chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract and effects over 3.2 million people in Europe. 

Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director of CÚRAM, said: ““The team strongly believes that the developed system can be delivered as an HA enema to act as a barrier-protecting system on the damaged colon barrier, reducing intestinal inflammation in the treatment of colonic inflammatory diseases. 

“This will result in reduced inflammation and protection of the intestinal lining.” 

The research represents a significant leap forward from the standard therapeutic interventions for colitis, which have focused mainly on maintaining remission levels, and do not address the root cause of the condition, especially damage to the intestinal lining and intestinal function.

Dr Niranjan Kotla, conducted the principal research of the study at CÚRAM in collaboration with Dr Venkatakrishna R Jala, from the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, James Graham Brown Cancer Centre, University of Louisville, in the US.  

Dr Yury Rochev, co-lead on the publication added: "This research demonstrates the efficacy of a unique therapeutic strategy able to induce a positive effect on damaged colonic tissue. The reduction in inflammation will be of great benefit to patients and highlights the potential use of this treatment."

Alongside the research into a specific therapeutic treatment for Crohn’s and colitis, CÚRAM researchers have also identified inflammation-specific targeted carriers for local drug delivery to inflammatory bowel disease. 

The findings have been published in Biomaterials.

The study looked at the highly challenging but potentially effective practice of delivering drugs directly to inflamed intestinal sites to treat inflammatory bowel disease, particularly Crohn's and ulcerative colitis. 

The research team, led by Professor Abhay Pandit and Dr Yury Rochev in collaboration with Prof Larry Egan, Professor of Clinical Pharmacology at NUI Galway,  developed strong anionic charged inflammation targeted nanocarriers (IT-NCs) loaded with an immunosuppressant model drug.  

“Our results suggest that IT-NCs have promising therapeutic potential as delivery carriers' in colitis management,” said Professor Pandit.

This research was funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 - the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation.

The first study has been published in Advanced Science and is available here

The second study has been published in Biomaterials and is available here,  


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