Digestive Health

17 June 2010

New Clues for Treating Ulcerative Colitis

Scientists spot chemical tied to remission of the debilitating bowel disease


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WEDNESDAY, June 16 (HealthDay News) -- A chemical that may trigger remission in people with ulcerative colitis has been identified by Canadian researchers.

The team at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, found that ulcerative colitis patients in long-term remission have elevated levels of prostaglandin D2. Previous research in rats found that this chemical plays an important role in healing and remission of the disease.

"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," John Wallace, director of the Farncombe Family Digestive Health Research Institute at McMaster, said in a university news release.

Wallace, a professor of medicine at the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, said the finding may help lead to a new treatment for ulcerative colitis and possibly to Crohn's disease as well.

Ulcerative colitis involves a chronic inflammation of the inner lining of the rectum and colon that can lead to abdominal pain and cramping, diarrhea, bleeding and weight loss. The condition affects millions of people worldwide. Treatment options are still limited, however, and most people are never cured.

The study was published June 14 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has more about ulcerative colitis.


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Digestive Health Expert

Dr. Estelle Wilken is a Senior Specialist in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology at Tygerberg Hospital. She obtained her MBChB in 1976, her MMed (Int) in 1991 and her gastroenterology registration in 1995.

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