Insulin is a necessary medicine for diabetics, but new work shows that insulin may also be used to treat chronic bowel inflammation. Research done by scientists at the University of Copenhagen and Roskilde University found that in a mouse model of colitis when insulin was injected into the rectum, it treated the bowel inflammation that is a part of the disease. The findings have been reported in the Journal of Crohn's and Colitis and are outlined in the following video.
“Our new treatment with insulin on mice shows great potential against chronic bowel inflammation in humans like Colitis Ulcerosa, which causes a lot of people great discomfort. Existing treatments attack the bowel's immune system, dampening it; instead, our method strengthens the bowel cells' own defense. It appears to work equally well, and it can probably be used in combination with existing treatments,” said Jørgen Olsen, co-inventor of the treatment and a professor at the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, University of Copenhagen.
Colitis Ulcerosa is a chronic disorder that can cause aching and cramping, bloody diarrhea, anemia, and weight loss.
The current treatment has not helped people retain weight. After assessing their mouse model, the scientists found that in mice that received the insulin treatment, fifteen to twenty percent less weight was lost and they were able to gain weight fifty percent faster.
The researchers also looked at gene expression patterns, which indicated that the insulin treatment also reduced inflammation. In the treated mice, expression of an inflammation marker, the Cox2 gene, was down fifty percent compared to the control group, which received injections of a salt solution instead of insulin.
The insulin exerts its effect by activating a gene with antioxidant effects in the bowels; it may also protect against inflammation. Because that’s a different mechanism than the current treatment, which acts on the immune system, it may be possible to combine the two treatments.
The researchers are working to bring this drug to the clinic. Because many aspects of this therapy, like rectal injections and the insulin itself, are already approved, it will hopefully be available to patients soon. The researchers have set up a company to test the drug in human trials and have applied for a patent. Research funds will likely be enough to complete the initial phases of safety testing, Olsen said. They are also actively in pursuit of additional funding.
Learn more about colitis from the video.