Mucous could someday help heal Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis
Imagine a day when mucous instead of risky unpleasant medications could be used to help heal Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, both of which are forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Researchers at Mount Sinai Hospital are working now on such a therapy that could improve the lives of those diagnosed with the diseases that are thought to be the result of environmental triggers that spawn a disorder of the autoimmune system.
Mucous has anti-inflammatory properties for IBD
One of the causes of symptoms associated with IBD is inflammation, which is the body's way of promoting healing. Except for those with Crohn's and colitis the inflammatory response becomes overly responsive.
Other diseases such as cancer are also associated with inflammation, making mucous a promising target for treating other diseases as well.
Researchers from Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai's Immunology Institute say they foresee a time when mucous could be manufactured as a treatment for IBD. It seems mucous has powerful anti-inflammatory properties in addition to providing other functions that are important for modulating immune system function.
Researchers published September, 2013 in the journal September 26 in the peer-reviewed journal Science explaining how mucous has the ability capture food toxins and bacteria. In essence, mucous can help with food tolerance in addition to aiding the body's ability to handle antigens.
But mucous does even more than the scientists previously knew. Ordinary mucous that is in the intestines also contain specialized cells that stop inflammation, known as dendritic cells.
"This important property of mucus was unknown until now," said Meimei Shan, MD, PhD, the study's lead author in a press release.
In their studies, the investigators looked at the molecular structure and function of mucous cells form pigs, humans and mice. They also treated mice genetically engineered without intestinal mucous by giving them mucous from healthy mice.
The authors explain inflammatory bowel disease compromises integrity of the intestines, which in turn leads to less mucous production and a lower anti-inflammatory response compared to healthy people. Humans normally release 1 liter of mucous each day throughout the body. Eighty percent of immune cells are located in the gut.
"Future research will focus on further exploring the mechanisms to synthesize gut mucus or an equivalent drug-like compound for oral administration," said Dr. Shan. "We hope to artificially synthesize mucus or an equivalent compound for oral use."
If you suffer from Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, stay tuned for follow-up studies about the healing powers of intestinal mucous. The hope is that as researchers uncover more about the healing powers, such a remedy could be used to help treat IBD and possibly more.
Image credit: Wikimedia commons
Stomach cells secreting mucous