Researchers at the Institute for Biomedical Sciences at Georgia State University and Southwest University in China have developed a new oral drug to treat ulcerative colitis. The study, published in the journal Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces, describes a novel therapeutic method consisting of microparticles loaded with natural anti-inflammatory molecules that target the lining of the colon.
Ulcerative colitis, a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), is a chronic condition that affects the colon and is characterized by tissue inflammation and ulceration. It is the result of an exacerbated response of the immune system and, therefore, usual therapy focuses on controlling inflammation via intravenous delivery of anti-inflammatory and immune-suppressive drugs, namely, inhibitors of inflammatory cytokines such as anti-TNFα (tumor necrosis factor alpha), potent drugs that lead to T cell death and severe side effects.
The microparticles used in the study were developed by an emulsion-solvent evaporation method, and consist of pH-sensitive, biocompatible and biodegradable polymers, Eudragit S100 and PLGA. These microparticles are loaded with curcumin, an active ingredient extracted from natural herbal sources with anti-inflammatory properties shown to be effective in reducing inflammation and relapse rate for ulcerative colitis in animal pre-clinical experiments.
In the study, the ratio between polymer content and its effect on loading efficiency and curcumin release rate was regulated, analyzed and optimized by the research team. The results reported in the study were obtained in mice models of ulcerative colitis. pH-sensitivity, controlled drug release, high drug loading capacity, and tissue specific targeting are among the main advantages of these microparticles.
The relevance and novelty of this treatment are highlighted by Dr. Didier Merlin, senior author of the paper and professor in the Institute for Biomedical Sciences at Georgia State, “Orally administered microparticles may offer an efficient drug delivery system because they are characterized by a high drug loading capacity and may target colitis tissues based on abnormalities,” said Dr. Merlin in a news release, “there is an unmet need for a carrier system that is capable of delivering a drug specifically and exclusively to the inflamed region for a prolonged time”.
Researchers conclude that this new method solves some of the hurdles associated with previous drug treatments for ulcerative colitis, such as the need for higher doses due to non-specific tissue targeting and consequent undesired side effects.