IBD: Inflammatory Sensors


HOUSTON, Texas (Ivanhoe Newswire) – It’s estimated more than seven million people in the U.S. and Europe will be diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease, IBD, by 2030. That digestive disease triggers abdominal pain, diarrhea and anemia. Now, lab research is focused on swallowing a bacterial biosensor that will pinpoint and transmit inflammation information in order to treat it more effectively.

“These are genes that have evolved inside of bacteria that sense molecules in the gut that are linked to inflammation,” says Professor of Bioengineering at Rice University, Jeffrey Tabor, PhD.

(Read Full Interview)

Rice University researchers plan to take advantage of that with a platform delivery system to insert into the bacteria. A capsule will deliver biosensors that monitor inflammation in the gut and transmit it to physicians for diagnosis of IBD. It’s non-invasive and will transmit signals back to doctors regarding the patient’s level of inflammation.

Tabor explains, “It took us about two years to find the first bacterial sensor. We were searching in bacterial genomes, analyzing their genes, discovering sensors of inflammation biomarkers, and then putting them back in bacteria and back in animals. You can think of a bacteria as a little sphere.”

The bacteria in the capsule have a little antenna outside the sphere that detects the molecule in the intestines.

“The molecule will, kind of, float into the antenna, stick to it, and turn the antenna on. And what this does is transmit the signal across the bacterial membrane, across the sphere, inside the bacteria itself,” Tabor further explains.

The bacterial sensors are connected to a green fluorescent protein and the bacteria will glow green, pinpointing the IBD inflammation. The biosensors are retrieved from the stool.

Tabor adds, “We shine a blue light on them and if they glow green, we know that they’ve seen inflammation.”

Human clinical trials are three years out, but researchers who understand gut bacteria is the key to a cure, will use it to diagnose, eventually reducing the use of invasive tools like endoscopies and colonoscopies.

Contributors to this news report include: Donna Parker, Producer; Bruce Maniscalco, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor. 

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REPORT:        MB #5320

BACKGROUND: Inflammatory Bowel Disease, or IBD, is a group of chronic inflammatory conditions that affect the digestive tract. The two main types of IBD are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. These conditions involve inflammation of the gastrointestinal, or GI tract, leading to various symptoms and complications. According to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, one in 100 Americans are diagnosed with IBD every year. People with weakened immune systems are more susceptible to the disease. Also viruses or bacteria can cause inflammation of the GI tract. People with a family history of IBD are also more prone to getting it.

(Sources: https://www.cdc.gov/ibd/index.htm#:~:text=Inflammatory%20Bowel%20Disease%20(IBD)%20is,Crohn%27s%20disease%20and%20ulcerative%20colitis.



DIAGNOSING: Common symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease include, but are not limited to: persistent diarrhea, abdominal pain, rectal bleeding or bloody stool, weight loss, and/or fatigue. Doctors can diagnose IBD with an endoscopy, colonoscopy, a series of imaging tests like contrast radiography, MRIs, or CT scans, stool samples, and/or blood tests. IBD is typically treated with 5-aminosalicylic acids, immunomodulators, corticosteroids, biologics, or surgery to remove parts of the GI tract that have been damaged.

(Source: https://www.cdc.gov/ibd/what-is-IBD.htm#:~:text=The%20exact%20cause%20of%20IBD,to%20be%20a%20genetic%20component.)

NEW TECHNOLOGY: Rice University has developed a non-invasive way to diagnose IBD. Jeffrey Tabor, PhD, Bioengineer, led the research. The researchers created a little piece of E. coli to detect IBD. In the healthy organisms (mice), the molecules glow red, but in organisms with acidic conditions, the molecules glow green, revealing that they have IBD. Professor Tabor says, “Human clinical trials are at least three years out, but researchers, who understand gut bacteria is the key to a cure, will use it to diagnose, eventually reducing the use of invasive tools like endoscopies and colonoscopies.”

(Sources: https://news.rice.edu/news/2021/engineered-organism-could-diagnose-crohns-disease-flareups

Jeffrey Tabor, PhD, Bioengineer at Rice University)


Silvia Cernea Clark


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Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Jeffrey Tabor, PhD, Professor of Bioengineering

Read the entire Q&A