A newly developed synthetic lining that coats the small intestine may have potential to treat conditions, ranging from lactose intolerance to diabetes and obesity, according to investigators from Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.A team of researchers has been working on an innovative way of sustainably delivering drugs and influencing nutrient absorption in the gut by using the gastrointestinal synthetic epithelial lining (GSEL) system. Because GSEL is designed to coat the small intestine, an organ that plays a key role in drug and nutrient absorption, researchers have demonstrated the GSEL system’s ability to adhere to segments of the gastrointestinal tract from pigs and humans. In pig models, the team has reported potential applications in treating not only diabetes, but tropical diseases such as schistosomiasis.Image showing fresh resected tissue specimens from porcine small intestine without (left) and with (right) ex vivo GSEL coating. Credit: Junwei Li/Science Translational MedicineResults of the team’s proof-of-concept studies are published in Science Translational Medicine.“The small intestine is an amazing organ — it’s the main site of drug and nutrient absorption and digestion and plays an important role as a barrier. We recognized its potential: If we could specifically target this location, it would open up new avenues for drug delivery and nutritional modulation,” said corresponding author C. Giovanni Traverso, a gastroenterologist and biomedical engineer in the Division of Gastroenterology at the Brigham.The GSEL system combines two nature-inspired innovations. The first takes advantage of a chemical reaction triggered by catalase, an enzyme that helps break down hydrogen peroxide into oxygen in the small intestine. The second is a mussel-inspired tissue adhesive, similar to what mollusks use to attach themselves to rocks. Using these two concepts, Traverso, first author Junwei Li, and colleagues designed the synthetic gut lining. Their goal is to develop a capsule, pill or gel that could be ingested, but for now, the team has tested administering the GSEL system endoscopically — that is, directly inserting it into the small intestine.To test the lining’s therapeutic potential, the team looked at pig models for testing lactose intolerance, glucose absorption and the delivery of praziquantel, a drug for treating schistosomiasis. The team found evidence that the lining could deliver the drug in a sustained way, potentially reducing treatment to a once-a-day dose instead of three time a day. It also improved lactose digestion and regulated glucose absorption, indicating its potential for treating Type 2 diabetes and preventing obesity.,In order to move from pig models into human trials, several hurdles remain, including further developing the GSEL system into an ingestible form. For now, Traverso, Li and colleagues are focused on continuing to evaluate safety in preclinical studies.“For our studies, safety is a key focus of our work,” said Traverso. “There are indications that this system can help patients suffering from many diseases, but before we can translate this technology for humans, we need to fully validate its safety and the effects of chronic use.”This work was supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation grants (OPP1179091), the NIH (EB000244) and funds from the Department of Mechanical Engineering, MIT.Adapted from a Brigham and Women’s news release by Haley Bridger.
From noon Friday until noon Saturday, the cycling studio in the Knute Rockne Memorial Gymnasium will be filled with students, staff and community members cycling and raising money for breast cancer research and treatment as part of the third annual 24 Hour Pink Zone Spin-A-Thon.Jennie Phillips, assistant director of fitness and fitness facilities for RecSports and one of the event’s organizers, said it is a 24-hour fundraising effort for local breast cancer support.“It’s 24 hours of indoor cycling, which takes place over in our cycling studio at the Rock,” Phillips said. “We start at noon on Friday the 7th and end at noon on Saturday. People are simply riding bikes in support of breast cancer patients, survivors or in memory of someone.”The event, which is sponsored by the Notre Dame women’s basketball team and the College of Science, is part of the Pink Zone initiative, a national women’s basketball breast cancer fundraising campaign.“The Pink Zone games are part of a national campaign amongst women’s collegiate basketball teams, and we’ve been doing the Pink Zone on campus for probably five or six years,” Phillips said.Phillips said the past two years’ events raised several thousands of dollars for breast cancer research and gave more than 200 people the chance to participate in the event.“The first year we did [the Spin-A-Thon]… we filled up about 85 percent of our time and raised about $13,000,” Phillips said. “Last year we did the donations a little differently, so we only raised $2,600 and we had 275 riders. So this year we ask that the minimum donation is $10.”Tabbitha Ashford, the fitness and instructional program coordinator for RecSports, also helped organize the Spin-A-Thon. She said 273 riders had registered for the event, and they had raised $1,575, a total that will rise throughout the course of the event.Phillips said they ask for donations from riders in support of local breast cancer treatment initiatives.“Out of the Pink Zone efforts, a lot of the money stays local and helps with local efforts for women to get mammograms, support groups and local research,” Phillips said.Ashford said each hour of the event will feature different themes, ranging from the Winter Olympics to the television show “The Big Bang Theory.”“We do a variety of different themed hours. We’ll have cycling classes, which is a great opportunity to enjoy a cheaper cycling class compared to the ones we offer normally,” Ashford said. “We’ll have music-themed hours, so we’ll do an 80s hour, and we’ll have a Valentine’s hour where we encourage people to wear red gear and play some cheesy love songs and have fun with that.”Phillips said they will give away prizes throughout the event as well to keep the cyclists involved throughout the 24-hour effort.“We’ll have giveaways, too. Everybody who rides gets a t-shirt and a water bottle, and then we’ll do giveaways throughout the night,” Phillips said. “We’ll keep people engaged and entertained while they’re there.”Phillips said in years past, the initiative has received tremendous support from the entire Notre Dame community.“The people that come have fun. It’s really awesome that a lot of our club sports teams come and participate,” Phillips said. “Rugby has been really great because they come from about two to five in the morning. The first year they came, we watched the movie ‘Rudy’ and by the end of the movie, you could hear them all throughout the Rock chanting.”Ashford also said the event will focus on the survivors and patients that the money helps.“We’ll be updating the mileage we’ve gone throughout the event and the money that’s being raised, as well as bringing it back home and showing videos of survivors’ stories,” Ashford said. “We normally put up different pictures and biographies of different survivors from around the community, just to bring it back to why we are having this event.”Phillips said the event is a testament to the Notre Dame community and its willingness to help those in need.“One of things I am always impressed by at Notre Dame is how people step up for a cause. They come out and put forth the effort, and around here you get to have a little fun while you do that, but also really affect people’s lives,” Phillips said.“On Sunday at the basketball game at halftime, we’ll bring current patients and survivors down on the floor, and they are so touched by the reception that the crowd gives them and the fact that we honor them in their fight. It’s a really special thing.”Tags: breast cancer, Cancer research, RecSports, Rockne Memorial, The Rock, women’s basketball