March 6, 2008 -- Researchers trying to improve cancer immune therapy have made an unexpected find: They've produced the most accurate mouse model to date of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), a cluster of conditions that afflict approximately 1.4 million Americans with abdominal pain, constipation and diarrhea.
The two most common forms of IBD are Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis (UC); in extreme cases, they can be fatal. The mouse model closely resembles the most serious form of human UC and is uniformly fatal. But scientists successfully treated the mice with a pair of broad-spectrum antibiotics, easing gut inflammation and increasing survival. The results, reported this week in Public Library of Science-Medicine, have researchers eager to follow up both in the clinic and the lab.
"The antibiotics we gave the mice were used individually in unsuccessful clinical trials as ulcerative colitis treatments, but now we have colleagues who are thinking of giving combined therapy an informal try," says co-senior author Thaddeus S. Stappenbeck, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of pathology and immunology and of developmental biology. "The antibiotics probably won't be a cure by themselves, but they may provide us with a potent new approach to combine with other therapies."
The mice may also allow scientists to learn which species of gut microorganisms are becoming embroiled in battles with host immune systems, triggering the symptoms of UC. That information could allow the development of stronger and more specific treatments.
Silvia Kang, a former graduate student in the laboratory of co-senior author Paul Allen, Ph.D., the Robert L. Kroc Professor of Pathology and Immunology, created the mouse model by crossbreeding two mouse lines they had developed for cancer immune therapy research. Each mouse line had one protein knocked out that restrained immune T cells from shifting into attack mode.
"The idea was to see if we
|Contact: Michael C. Purdy|
Washington University in St. Louis