Oral Inflammatory Bowel Disease Drug Closer to Reality

Biofilm proteins show promise in treatment of gastrointestinal disorders.

Biofilm proteins show promise in treatment of gastrointestinal disorders.

Relief may soon be on the way for millions of patients suffering from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), as scientists are inching closer to achieving the first oral single-pill regimen for the treatment of IBD.

A proof-of-concept study conducted by the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University published online in the journal Biofilms and Microbiomes showed an oral dose of a protein treatment developed from a bacterial biofilm was able to reduce IBD severity in a mouse model.

This was the first study to show the biofilm protein called curli can decrease intestinal inflammation in animals, according to researchers. The majority of current treatments for IBD suppress the immune system and decrease inflammation.

The drawbacks to these therapies include an increased risk of severe adverse events, including cancer and infection. Curli is among the first products based on biofilm evaluated specifically for IBD treatment, according to the study.

The bacterial aggregates that comprise biofilms are bound by an extracellular matrix that allows organisms to develop thick protective films to cover surfaces. These are similar to the protective films found inside the mouth and intestinal tract lining.

Curli has been found to support the epithelial barrier in the intestinal tract, which when disrupted is the primary feature of intestinal inflammation, and also helps maintain immune homeostasis in the epithelial layer.

Researchers found the protein activates toll-like receptor 2, which generated the production of anti-inflammatory cytokine interleukin-10 (IL-10).

After administering a single oral dose of curli to mice with acute colitis, IL-10 levels were found to increase, while intestinal inflammation was significantly diminished. The pathology and weight gain among mice given the curli treatment were similar among mice treated with standard IBD antibody therapy.

The research may pave the way for curli to be evaluated as a novel immunotherapy for IBD or as an oral supplement. This analysis may also lead to the identification of new pathways implicated in IBD and intestinal inflammation.

"The really remarkable finding is that one dose of curli -- not a daily dose, but just a single oral dose -- decreased inflammation and disease pathology and altered the cytokine profile," said Çagla Tükel, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine.