New nanotherapy developed may treat childhood Crohn’s disease

CHICAGO, Ill. — Crohn’s disease is a particularly nasty form of inflammatory bowel disease. Patients suffer from chronic stomach inflammation, intestinal obstructions, diarrhea, bleeding, abdominal pain, weight loss, and fatigue. As if all that isn’t enough, pediatric Crohn’s disease can cause malnutrition-related abnormalities in children. On a positive note, however, a team in Chicago says they’ve developed a groundbreaking new anti-inflammatory nanotherapy capable of reducing intestinal inflammation and shrinking lesions.

Researchers from the Stanley Manne Children’s Research Institute at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago say this new treatment may one day become a viable alternative to biologic antibody Crohn’s therapies. These treatments currently carry a number of troubling side-effects, including an elevated risk of some cancers.

Nanotherapy may be helpful for more than just Crohn’s

This new nanotherapy, tested in mice, may help Crohn’s patients avoid surgery as well. Right now, roughly 70 percent of people with Crohn’s disease will require surgery and many will need follow-up procedures. One key aspect of Crohn’s disease that separates it from other forms of IBD is the presence of lesions along discontinuous intestine segments. Doctors currently recommend surgery to remove those lesions.

“We injected into the intestinal lesion nanomolecules that carry an anti-inflammatory peptide, which is a tiny portion of a protein,” says senior author Arun Sharma, PhD, Director of Surgical Research at the Manne Research Institute, in a media release. “The results were phenomenal. We saw reduction in inflammation based upon reductions in pro-inflammatory immune cells and proteins. The lesion size shrunk dramatically, which gives us hope that with this therapy we can salvage inflammatory tissue and avoid needing to surgically remove segments of the intestine in severe cases of Crohn’s disease.”

The nanomolecules facilitate the delivery of a concentrated dose of anti-inflammatory peptides into the lesion. Based on Dr. Sharma’s observations, this action cultivates an “anti-inflammatory environment” that both stops the lesion from growing and reduces its size.

“Our study provides proof of principle findings that this nanotherapy can be effective for Crohn’s disease and may be applicable to other inflammatory bowel diseases, such as ulcerative colitis,” Dr. Sharma concludes. “Before we can translate this work to clinical application, we need to develop a less invasive mode of delivery, such as oral or via endoscopy.”

The study is published in Advanced Therapeutics.