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UAlberta medical researchers discover potential new treatment for colitis
Date:10/23/2013

A drug currently on the market to treat leukemia reversed symptoms of colitis in lab tests, according to recently published findings by medical researchers with the University of Alberta.

Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry researcher Shairaz Baksh published his team's discovery in the peer-reviewed journal, PLOS ONE.

His team discovered that a tumour-suppressor gene can also play an important role in the development of colitis. When this gene quits working or is missing, the inflammation process is triggered and the body loses its ability to repair damaged colon tissue. This leads to severe discomfort and poor recovery following bouts of inflammation. Persistent inflammation is prevalent in inflammatory bowel disease (such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis).

Baksh and his team wondered if they could interfere with the inflammation process and encourage the body to repair the damaged tissue, so the disease would be less severe and patients could recover more quickly from any flare-ups. The team used a leukemia drug (imatinib/gleevec) that has been on the market for years to treat normal mice and mice that were missing the tumour-suppressor gene.

"The treatment reversed the symptoms of colitis," says Baksh. "We are on the cusp of a new treatment for this condition that affects 150,000 Canadians. We are pretty excited about the impact of this finding.

"We are trying to inhibit colitis by preventing the inflammation that is causing the damage. More importantly, by controlling or preventing the inflammation, we can reduce the likelihood that patients with ulcerative colitis develop colorectal cancer later in life. About half of these patients develop this type of cancer due to chronic inflammation.

"Our findings also suggest we may have identified novel biomarkers for the appearance and progression of inflammatory bowel disease."

His team is continuing its work in this area and has disc
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Contact: Raquel Maurier
rmaurier@ualberta.ca
780-492-5986
University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry
Source:Eurekalert

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