New discovery to calm inflammatory bowel disease

CHICAGO, Ill. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – About 3.1 million people in the U.S. are living with inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD. It's a disruptive condition that can cause chronic inflammation in part or all of the digestive tract, leading to abdominal pain and diarrhea. Now researchers have found a key to potentially shutting off the disease and its symptoms.

Scott Dillingham is always on the run. 

"Most of my life revolves around family activities and that family includes two very active daughters and two very active dogs," said Dillingham.

But living with IBD for nearly 25 years has had him always running to the bathroom.

Dillingham shared, "I suddenly found myself experiencing pretty dramatic symptoms, like urgency and blood and was really quite scared."

Now researchers at the University of Chicago have identified a molecule called divertin, which blocks an enzyme from breaking down the intestinal barrier. When that barrier breaks down …

"Then our immune system reacts to it and may think that's it under attack," said David Rubin, MD, Professor of Medicine at the University of Chicago.

Causing inflammation that can lead to IBD conditions, such as Crohn's and ulcerative colitis.

Dr. Rubin said, "So if you can use this small molecule almost like a key to block that enzyme from breaking down the barrier, you can actually enhance or protect that barrier."

And prevent IBD and relapses. For Dillingham, who takes immunosuppressants to keep his symptoms at bay, the discovery is terrific news.

"Immunosuppressants leave you exposed to all sorts of other complications down the road. Being untethered from that dependency would be life-changing," said Dillingham.

The researchers say using the divertin molecule to enhance the intestinal barrier may also help with other diseases, such as celiac disease, graft versus host disease, and multiple sclerosis.

Contributors to this news report include: Milvionne Chery, Field Producer; Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Bruce Maniscalco, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.