Research points to new treatments for inflammatory bowel diseases

Potential arises for possible remedies

Irish researchers led by a group in NUI Maynooth have made an important discovery that could lead to new treatments for inflammatory bowel diseases.

They confirmed the role of a protein that protects against the effects of the disease and hope a drug could be developed to reduce the difficult symptoms of inflammatory bowel in conditions such as Crohn's disease.

One in 200 people in the US have some form of the disease and there are an estimated two million cases across the EU, said Prof Paul Moynagh of NUI Maynooth. He is the director of Maynooth's institute of immunology and leads the research team with support from collaborators in Trinity College Dublin and University College Cork, with funding from Science Foundation Ireland and from the Health Research Board.

The focus of their attention was a protein found in the gut called Pellino3, one of a family of proteins that seemed to control inflammation. A series of experiments proved Pellino3 played a role in controlling unwanted inflammation in the intestine and therefore protecting against the development of Crohn’s disease.


They measured levels of Pellino3 in patients with Crohn’s disease and found it was “dramatically reduced” in these patients, said Prof Moynagh. The protein was being broken down, stopping its ability to reduce inflammation. Details of the research are published this morning in the journal Nature Immunology.

Identifying the role of Pellino3 opens up important possibilities, he said. It can be difficult to diagnose Crohn’s as opposed to another condition, ulcerative colitis, but Pellino3 can help because it is reduced in Crohn’s patients but remains unchanged in those with colitis, he said.

Dick Ahlstrom

Dick Ahlstrom

Dick Ahlstrom, a contributor to The Irish Times, is the newspaper's former Science Editor.