Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, are an important cause of morbidity and impact significantly on quality of life. Overall, current treatments do not sustain a long-term clinical remission and are associated with adverse effects, which highlight the need for new treatment options.
Chronic inflammatory bowel disease is a multi-factorial disease likley caused by toxicity due to dietary, medical or environmental patterns.
After the industrial era, the prevalence of IBD rapidly increased in Europe and North America, and is reportedly becoming more common in the rest of the world as countries adopt a Western lifestyle.
The study, led by Professor Nuri Gueven from the Faculty of Health at the University of Tasmania, tested two different fucoidan extracts in a mouse model of the disease. Cumulative histological disease scores for the distal colon were reduced by up to 36.3% in the study by fucoidan extracts whilst, weight loss -- a common and side effect of colitis - was reduced by more than 50%.
Seaweed is already known to contain compounds that protect it from various marine viruses and toxins.
It demonstrates that a commercially available extract could hold future potential for therapeutic benefit for inflammatory diseases.
Fucoidans are complex polysaccharides found in edible brown algae. They have previously been described to have multiple bioactivities and previous studies have reported some anti-inflammatory activity.
Dr Helen Fitton, senior scientist at Marinova stated "the results of this study could increase the interest in the use of fucoidan in the area of gut health."
"The current drugs that we have to treat inflammatory bowel disease can have significant side effects and in many cases only work for a limited period of time," Geuven stated.
"The advantage of this research is that the product is already commercially available for use," Fitton added.
In one mouse model, the equivalent of a 1 gram human daily dose of the algal extract were found to be highly effective in reducing biomarkers and histology observations, Fitton said.
It was also highly effective in reducing clinical signs of colitis in the model.
These obvious symptoms of colitis included weight loss, stool consistency, blood in the stool and colon weight as a surrogate marker of colon oedema, Geuven added.
"A large number of inflammatory cytokines indicative of disease activity were also normalized in the treated animals," he explained.
At this stage in time it is unclear how the fucoidan extract is driving a reduction in inflammation in the disease model. Further research is ongoing to elucidate this mechanism.
However, caution should be taken when interpreting the results of one study in rodents. "The model does not mirror exactly a single human disease such as ulcerative colitis but rather shows colon inflammation," explained Geuven, noting this is only the first step in the research process.
Results are now being confirmed in another pre-clinical model: "Marinova is currently involved in the next stage of this study with additional mouse models, human cell lines and tissues before then moving into human trials," said Fitton.
Mae Chan holds degrees in both physiology and nutritional sciences. She is also blogger and and technology enthusiast with a passion for disseminating information about health.