DEC 11, 2019 2:20 PM PST

Drug To Treat Ulcerative Colitis

WRITTEN BY: Nouran Amin

Biomedical researchers at the University of California—Riverside, found that the therapeutic drug ‘tofacitinib’ used in treating autoimmunity symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis can also treat gut permeability defects in patients diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. "Our work increases our understanding of how this drug is useful for treating ulcerative colitis," said Declan McCole, a professor of biomedical sciences in the UCR School of Medicine, and the lead author of the study that appears in the journal Inflammatory Bowel Diseases. "We now better understand where in the gut the drug is working, and how."

Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease affecting 1 million Americans. The condition targets the large intestine in the digestive system that results in the lining of the colon becoming inflamed and leaky. But, tofacitinib—often marketed as Xeljianz—can repair the cells lining the gut.

"We found tofacitinib fixes the leakiness in the intestinal barrier," McCole said. "Specifically, it fixes intestinal epithelial permeability defects caused by 'interferon-gamma,' an inflammatory cytokine involved in autoimmune diseases such as ulcerative colitis and rheumatoid arthritis."

Learn more about ulcerative colitis:

Intestinal permeability, or leakiness, is a characteristic of ulcerative colitis and results in inflammation. Researchers believe that tofacitinib targets the inflammation-induced permeability in the lining and prevents fluid loss.

"By targeting specific molecules, the drug inhibits a pathway that is activated by inflammation," said Anica Sayoc-Becerra, a graduate student in the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program, a member of McCole's lab, and the first author of the research paper. "Our study shows tofacitinib is not just acting on immune cells, as was first thought, but can have a direct effect on the epithelial cells that are the key factor in maintaining gut barrier function."

Source: University of California

About the Author
  • Nouran is a scientist, educator, and life-long learner with a passion for making science more communicable. When not busy in the lab isolating blood macrophages, she enjoys writing on various STEM topics.
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