Seaweed extract may hold promise for IBD, suggests new study

By Hamish McDougall

- Last updated on GMT

Seaweed extract may hold promise for IBD, suggests new study

Related tags: Inflammatory bowel disease, Ulcerative colitis

An extract from fucoidans may provide promise for treating a type of inflammatory bowel disease known as ulcerative colitis, a new study published in PLoS One suggests.

The study, led by Professor Nuri Gueven from the Faculty of Health at the University of Tasmania in collaboration with Australian biotechnology company Marinova, tested two different fucoidan extracts produced by the company 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%.

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 told NutraIngredients ​“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 told NutraIngredients.

The advantage of this research is that the product is already commercially available for use,”​ Fitton added.

Cautious optimism

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.

Source: PLoS ONE
Published online, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.012845
“Fucoidan Extracts Ameliorate Acute Colitis”
Authors: QY Lean, RD Eri, HJ Fitton, RP Patel and N Gueve.

Related topics: Research

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