NIH Unit Awards Georgia Researchers $1.4 Million to Study Novel IBD Therapies

NIH Unit Awards Georgia Researchers $1.4 Million to Study Novel IBD Therapies

Researchers at Georgia State University’s Institute for Biomedical Sciences won a $1.4 million federal grant to study novel therapeutic approaches to treat inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs).

IBDs like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are chronic, inflammatory conditions whose existing treatments are limited by significant side effects. Patients still lack specific drugs to protect the intestine for prolonged periods using a local delivery system, which could help reduce side effects.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), a division of the National Institutes of Health, awarded the four-year grant to an Atlanta-based research team led by GSU professors Didier Merlin and Tim Denning, according to a press release.

The two will define specific factors and cells that may be targeted to treat IBD. They will evaluate if nanoparticle-mediated manipulation of factors that promote healing and inhibit inflammation can limit intestinal inflammation and promote wound healing in IBD. Researchers will employ small interfering (si)RNA nanoparticles — or small molecules — to silence certain genes, therefore stopping the production of proteins.

The NIDDK grant abstract says specifically targeting nanoparticles containing siRNA to intestinal immune cells may represent an improved novel therapeutic approach to treating IBD.

Preliminary data has also shown that stopping pro-inflammatory molecules can unexpectedly also inhibit critical wound-healing factors. The highly specific nanoparticle-mediated manipulation of tumor necrosis factor-Alpha (TNFα), IL-12/23 and IL-22 can, therefore, limit intestinal inflammation and promote wound healing during IBD.

The project will also use complementary models of intestinal inflammation to find out which specific intestinal cells should be targeted by nanoparticles and if this delivery system would be effective against inflammation while promoting wound healing.

These strategies could lead to improved therapies to treat human IBD, researchers wrote.

Earlier this month, University of Arizona researchers received a $1.9 million NIDDK grant to study how a protein helps maintain a healthy mix of gut bacteria, and how interfering with the protein can lead to bowel disease and colon cancer.