July 2009 Newsletter

Enzyme Involved in Intestinal Bowel Disease Discovered

Science Daily reports that researchers at Penn State College of Medicine, working with biochemists, geneticists and clinicians at the University of Bern, Switzerland and in the United Kingdom, have discovered an enzyme that has a key role in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Researchers at Penn State studied the role of Meprin in IBD using genetically altered mice lacking the ability to produce the enzyme in collaboration with colleagues in Switzerland who studied the enzyme in IBD patients.

Meprin is abundant in the latter part of the small intestine, or terminal ileum, and is also present in the large intestine at a lower level. The European researchers found an alteration in the meprin gene that correlated with IBD. They then compared the levels of meprin in affected and unaffected sections of colons from IBD patients and from healthy people.

The amount of enzyme in the IBD patient's inflamed colon was significantly lower than that in normal colon sections. The researchers concluded that their findings strongly correlate the severity of inflammation associated with both Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis with low meprin levels.

"This discovery is a major advance in understanding the genetic control of inflammation, and of ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease in particular," said Judith Bond, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor and Chair of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.
Probiotics for Children with Ulcerative Colitis
In the The American Journal of Gastroenterology, Miele E et al. (2009) conducted a study to show the effects of probiotics in children with ulcerative colitis.
Miele says that evidence is growing that probiotics - which are live active cultures of health-promoting bacteria - offer a variety of health benefits. The most consistent benefits suggest that probiotics help control diarrhea following antibiotic treatment.
29 children (mean age, 9.8 years; range, 2-16 years) with newly diagnosed ulcerative colitis were randomly assigned to receive, in double-blind fashion, a VSL#3 probiotic preparation(1,800 billion bacteria per day) or placebo for one year. VSL#3 consists of four strains of lactobacilli, three strains of bifidobacteria, and one strain of Streptococcus salivarius subsp. thermophilus. All patients received glucocorticoids and mesalazine until remission occurred, and then continued to receive mesalazine as maintenance therapy. The proportion of patients who achieved remission was significantly greater in the VSL#3 group than in the placebo group (93% vs. 36%; p < 0.001). After one year, the relapse rate was significantly lower in the VSL#3 group than in the placebo group (21 % vs. 73%; p = 0.014). No adverse effects of VSL#3 were seen.


Probiotics & Clostridium Difficile Infection

Alan R. Gaby, MD give us valubale information about Clostridium difficile. It is a gram-positive bacterium that is a common cause of antibiotic-associated diarrhea and pseudomembranous colitis.

It occurs most often in elderly frail hospitalized patients, but has also been seen in previously healthy individuals. C. difficile infection usually manifests as mild to moderate diarrhea, but severe colitis culminating in colectomy or death may also occur.

C. difficile infection is usually treated with vancomycin or metronidazole. The infection recurs in approximately 20% of patients after treatment with these antibiotics; and in patients who have a recurrence, subsequent recurrences are even more frequent.

He tells us that there are research studies showing that treatment with various probiotic agents can markedly reduce the incidence of C. difficile infections and reduce the recurrence rate in patients who have previously been infected.

Treatments investigated have included Saccharomyces boulardii, S. cerevisiae (brewer's or baker's yeast), Lactobacillus acidophilus, and L. GG.

In one study, administration of a combination of L. acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum appeared to prevent the development of diarrhea in patients infected with C. difficile.

Gaby says that probiotic agents may work by competing with C. difficile for nutrients and colonization sites in the intestinal tract, by producing compounds that inhibit the growth of C. difficile, or by producing compounds that neutralize C. difficile-associated toxins.
Why are Chinese Teenagers Less Depressed?

A new study of Chinese-American youth has found that family obligation, for example caring for siblings or helping elders, plays a positive role in the mental health of Chinese-American adolescents and may prevent symptoms of depression in later teenage years.

The study, published in the Journal of Family Psychology, found that 14-year-olds who reported a greater sense of family obligation reported fewer depressive symptoms by the time they reached 16.

The findings suggest that family obligation may be protective against depressive symptoms. The authors suggest that a greater sense of family obligation in the early teenage years could provide teenagers with a strong family bond that makes them feel secure even when they move through adolescence and become more autonomous.

The longitudinal study surveyed 218 Chinese-American teenagers over a two-year period. As participants grew older, their actions to help and support their families decreased. However, their attitude and respect toward their families remained stable, indicating that immigrant adolescents continue to endorse their traditional cultural values even when their behaviors suggest they are becoming less traditional.

The study was authored by Linda Juang and Jeffrey Cookston, both associate professors of psychology at San Francisco State University, published in the June issue of the Journal of Family Psychology
  In this Issue:
Enzyme Involved in IBD Discovered
Probiotics for Children with Ulcerative Colitis
Probiotics & Clostridium Difficile Infection
Chinese Teenagers Less Depressed?

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