Inflammatory bowel diseases like colitis and Crohn’s disease trouble more than 1 million people throughout the United States, making painful inflammation of the digestive tract and difficulty processing foods a way of life for the afflicted. But its effects go beyond the intestines.
Research showing that bone marrow is also affected by the stress inflammatory bowel diseases put on the digestive system may open up avenues for wider treatment options in helping people deal with these distressing ailments. Currently, conventional therapy for diseases like Crohn’s and colitis are limited to non-preventive measures such as prescription of steroids and narcotics to curb inflammation and pain, as well as surgeries to remove portions of the digestive tract. All of these treatments present a significant risk of degenerative tissue damage and little relief or hope for digestive normalcy.
Researchers from Michigan State University found that because the inflammatory symptoms of IBS are mimicked in the bone marrow of lab animals who suffer inflammatory bowel diseases, treatment could possibly be introduced that influences bone marrow function.
“It’s possible that if we could reduce bone marrow’s ability to produce inflammatory cells that we could reduce the severity of colitis and Crohn’s disease,” said Pam Fraker, MSU distinguished professor of biochemistry and molecular biology. “This could limit the damage that the disease causes and reduce the number of patients needing surgery.”