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Bowel Disease May Be Due to Permeable Mucus Layer

News: Jul 19, 2012

A doctoral thesis at Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, has found that people with chronic bowel disease have a permeable mucus layer that permits harmful bacterial to attack the intestinal wall. The results points the way to new treatment methods for ulcerative colitis and other chronic bowel disorders.

The colon contains many different kinds of bacteria that are vital to health but that can also cause disease. The colon produces a mucus layer, which forms a barrier between bacteria and the intestinal wall, to protect itself against their harmful effects.

Cause of bowel disorder

A doctoral thesis at Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, has shown that a permeable mucus layer may be one cause of ulcerative colitis, a chronic bowel disorder.

Important role

A study by doctoral student Jenny Gustafsson has demonstrated that mice that spontaneously develop colitis also have a permeable mucus layer. Further studies of tissue samples taken from patients with ulcerative colitis indicate that the mucus layer often returns to normal once the inflammation has subsided, which reinforces the hypothesis that the composition of the layer has an important role to play.

New insights

“In order to understand how the mucus layer is formed, we studied a special ion channel that is involved in fluid formation and that promotes excess mucus in the lungs of people with cystic fibrosis,” Gustafsson says. “The results show that the mucus in the small intestine becomes loose and permeable instead of adherent and compact when the channel is not functioning properly.”

New drugs

The researchers successfully introduced sodium bicarbonate, which is transported by the ion channel, to restore normal mucus properties.

“It turns out that bicarbonate is integral to creating mucus with the right properties,” Gustafsson says. “The findings may open the door to new drugs that can strengthen the mucus layer in the colon, reduce the risk of ulcerative colitis and break up mucus in the lungs of people with cystic fibrosis.”

Gustafsson defended her thesis, entitled ”Colonic Barrier Function in Ulcerative Colitis – Interactions between Ion and Mucus Secretion,” on 25 May.

Link to thesis: http://hdl.handle.net/2077/28487

Jenny Gustafsson, Department of Neuroscience and Physiology, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg
Phone; +46 31-7863487, +46 736-754132

Adviser: Henrik Sjövall, Department of Medicine
Phone +46 70-444691

+4631 786 38 69

Page Manager: Pontus Sundén|Last update: 8/8/2018

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