Blocking Key Molecules May be New Treatment Focus for IBD

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Quebec researchers have identified specific molecules that amplify “danger signals” in our intestines that can spark inflammation, and also proved that by blocking their signal, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can be stopped in its tracks.

Crohn’s and Colitis Canada funding now enables them to test if blocking the molecular receptor P2Y6 could lead to a new, safe and accessible IBD treatment.

This type of molecular study is essential for finding new ways to support over 300,000 Canadians with Crohn’s or colitis for whom effective treatments are limited,”

- Dr. Jean Sévigny, professor of medicine at Université Laval.

His team previously found gut inflammation is prevented by blocking “nucleotides” (danger signals) from attaching to the P2Y6. In mice, when P2Y6 was blocked or simply absent, inflammation disappeared.

In this next phase of their work, Dr. Sévigny’s team is testing more specific P2Y6 blockers both in mice that mimic human IBD, and in actual tissue samples from patients (collected during surgery). By doing so, they can investigate whether these P2Y6 blockers trigger an anti-inflammatory effect in the intestines.

This dual testing builds on early findings that the danger signals are present across species – suggesting we can take what we learn from mice and consider new treatments in people that target this new pathway to inflammation.

Dr. Sévigny says that, in theory, a medication that results from this new area of study would inherently be less expensive and better tolerated than current immunotherapies.

This is the latest step in innovative work by Dr. Sévigny that leverages Crohn’s and Colitis Canada funding. He obtained his first Crohn’s and Colitis Canada research grant in 2019 while investigating a novel therapy for this same inflammation pathway – results that enabled the team to earn a five-year
CIHR grant of over $880,000.

“This research is sparked by Crohn’s and Colitis Canada, and is really taking off in our lab,” he says. “We are able to now test two possible ways to control inflammation that will hopefully lead to two separate methods to treat Crohn’s and colitis in the future.”

Learn how Dr. Eileen Crowley & Dr. Roberta Berard's researchers of musculoskeletal manifestations of Crohn’s and colitis may improve patient quality of life and patient services >

  • Canada has among the highest incidence rates of Crohn's and colitis in the world.
  • 1 in 140 Canadians lives with Crohn’s or colitis.
  • Families new to Canada are developing these diseases for the first time.
  • Incidence of Crohn’s in Canadian kids under 10 has doubled since 1995.
  • People are most commonly diagnosed before age 30.

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