A recent study carried out by the University of Copenhagen and University of Roskilde demonstrated successful insulin treatment of colitis. Colitis, a form of inflammatory bowel disease, occurs when the inner lining of the rectum and large intestine swells which may lead to life-threatening complications.
‘The insulin works because it activates a gene inside the bowel cells, which, according to other studies, has an antioxidant effect and thus may be able to protect the bowel cells from inflammation. This (lowered inflammation approach) makes the new treatment different from existing medication, which instead of strengthening the bowel’s defense weakens the immune system’s attack on the bowel.’
Jørgen Olsen, co-inventor of the treatment and professor at the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, University of Copenhagen said ‘Our new treatment with insulin on mice shows great potential against chronic bowel inflammation in humans like Colitis Ulcerosa, which causes a lot of people great discomfort.’ He further explained the limitations of existing treatments which attack the bowels’ immune system. Conversely, the new treatment focused on strengthening the bowel cells’ and seemed to be working well.
In the new insulin treatment, the mice showed about 15-20% less weight reduction than the control group and later gained weight 50% faster than on any other treatment. People with colitis do not eat much and often lose a lot of weight. Thus weight gain is significantly a healthy sign. Insulin activates a gene which contains an antioxidant that reduces the attack on the bowels’ immune system. In another study, mice that received rectal insulin recovered better than the control group receiving phosphate-buffered saline alone; insulin lowered the endoscopic colitis scores, significantly reducing the size and numbers of tumors. Overall, insulin therapy enhanced mucosal healing in ulcerated areas by targeting the epithelial layer.
Researchers, including Jørgen Olsen, are now setting up a company that will conduct phase 1 trials on humans.