New Research on the Microbiome and IBD

I recently spotted this article[i] on research coming out of the University of North Carolina:  “UNC cancer researchers find potential treatment for inflammatory bowel diseases.”  (Now, not that I am obsessing on Dr. Mercola’s article from last week or anything but I admit, this particular quote from one of the researchers did strike a nerve:  “At this point we have limited treatment options and no cure for people with inflammatory bowel disease.”…as opposed to Dr. Mercola’s dismissal of the use of therapeutic helminths because, “there are already many proven ways to treat inflammatory bowel disease… very effectively.”)


Still brooding over here. (I did warn you in my last post that I was pit bull when it comes to not letting go of things!)
Back to this UNC paper[ii]: the researchers found that inflammation in the gut can go unchecked if an inflammation-inhibitor protein called NLRP12 is missing. (I’m not sure I fully understand why someone would be deficient in the protein, but it appears that it may be a genetic fragility.) This out-of-control inflammation, in turn, affects the balance of bacteria in the gut.  (Another example of how everything in the body is more than a two- way street. An increase in bad bacteria causes inflammation – and inflammation causes an increase in bad bacteria.)  The researchers found that certain types of pro-inflammatory bacteria were more abundant, along with lower levels of anti-inflammatory bacteria, when NLRP12 is absent.

The researchers call NLRP12 a “checkpoint” for the immune system.  What they suggest causes the devastation in IBD is not just the absence of the protein but also, its subsequent missing interaction with the gut flora.  Adding beneficial bacteria back into the gut can end this vicious cycle.  “We could potentially screen people for reduced expression of NLRP12, or who have this bacterial signature. Could this be a relatively simple fix for people who have this signature of the disease? At least, it appears to be the case in animals,” says one of the lead researchers.

You do have to wonder if this is not a factor in the development of autism, considering its relationship to gut pathologies (i.e. autistic enterocolitis) and altered gut flora?

Logically, then – genetic fragility of not – keeping your biome in good health (via diet, helminths, probiotics, prebiotics, minimal use of antibiotics, etc.) may ward off the development of IBD.



[ii] Chen, L, et. al. NLRP12 attenuates colon inflammation by maintaining colonic microbial diversity and promoting protective commensal bacterial growth. Nature Immunology. 2017:doi:10.1038/ni.2690.

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