McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Discovery may aid remission of ulcerative colitis

Published: June 14, 2010
John Wallace
John Wallace, director of the Farncombe Family Digestive Health Research Institute and a professor of medicine for the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine

McMaster University researchers have identified a specific chemical that may trigger remission in patients with the debilitating disease of ulcerative colitis.

The team from the Farncombe Family Digestive Health Research Institute has found that people in long-term remission of ulcerative colitis have elevated levels of the same chemical, prostaglandin D2, which they previously found to be important in promoting healing and maintaining remission of the condition in laboratory rats.

"The levels of prostaglandin D2 were only elevated in those patients in long-term remission, and that suggests it is a key factor in preventing new episodes of ulcerative colitis," said John Wallace, director of the Institute and a professor of medicine for the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine.

Ulcerative colitis impacts 100,000 Canadians and millions worldwide, but has an unknown cause and limited treatment options. Most people are never cured, and often require surgical removal of the colon.

The discovery may lead to a new treatment for inflammatory bowel disease which would promote production of prostaglandin D2, Wallace said. "It is entirely possible our findings could extend to Crohn’s disease as well."

The study by Wallace and post doctoral student Linda Vong with colleagues from the University of Calgary is being published in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) on June 14. Funding for the research was provided by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research and the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada

"This discovery holds a real promise of new and improved therapies to deal with such a painful and debilitating disease as ulcerative colitis," said Dr. Philip Sherman, Scientific Director of CIHR’s Institute of Nutrition, Metabolism and Diabetes.

"Speaking for the one in 160 Canadians who are living with either ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, I congratulate this research team on an important discovery that has the potential to significantly improve the quality of life for people with inflammatory bowel disease," said Dr. Kevin W. Glasgow, CEO, Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada.

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