A new study published earlier this month in Science Translational Medicine, may provide relief to millions of people around the world diagnosed with inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), who do not positively respond to standard treatment and drug therapies.

IBD is a collective term used to describe all disorders that cause chronic inflammation within the gastrointestinal tract, including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Abdominal pain, unintended weight loss, diarrhoea and fatigue are some of the main symptoms that may affect people living with IBD.

However, researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis USA have taken an innovative approach to understanding common genetic traits among IBD sufferers presenting to their healthcare professionals with more aggressive forms of the disease.

After analysing genetic data from the biopsy samples of a cohort of 1800 people with IBD, Kaiko and colleagues identified one the genes responsible for normal blood clotting, SERPINE-1 and its protein PAI-1 are dysregulated and more active among IBD patients. This places IBD patients at greater risk of blood clotting problems, especially during flare-ups if left untreated.

The researchers then conducted a study with IBD mice by testing the effect of an experimental drug called MDI-22 designed to block the PAI-1 protein and compared them with a control group of mice that were given a placebo. The results were shown to be positive, with the drug reducing the amount of inflammation and severity of symptoms present among the IBD group, in comparison to the control.

If the same positive effects are identified in approved human trials in the next few years, this new protein-targeted treatment could be a game-changer for people living with IBD.