About 0.5 per cent of Canadians have colitis. The incidence is higher in Alberta than in other provinces and studies are currently underway to identify the hot spots in the province. Genetics, diet and environment each play an important role in the development of the disease. Symptoms include weight loss, rectal bleeding and weight loss. Patients with the condition have ulcerated and inflamed colons, which are shorter than average and cause a great deal of discomfort.
A drug currently on the market to treat leukemia reversed symptoms of colitis in lab tests, according to recently published findings by medical researchers with the University of Alberta.
Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry researcher Shairaz Baksh published his team’s discovery in the peer-reviewed journal, PLOS ONE.
His team discovered that a tumour-suppressor gene can also play an important role in the development of colitis. When this gene quits working or is missing, the inflammation process is triggered and the body loses its ability to repair damaged colon tissue. This leads to severe discomfort and poor recovery following bouts of inflammation. Persistent inflammation is prevalent in inflammatory bowel disease (such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis).
Baksh and his team wondered if they could interfere with the inflammation process and encourage the body to repair the damaged tissue, so the disease would be less severe and patients could recover more quickly from any flare-ups. The team used a leukemia drug (imatinib/gleevec) that has been on the market for years to treat normal mice and mice that were missing the tumour-suppressor gene.