A team of scientists from the Faculty of Life Sciences at Bar-Ilan University has used genetic engineering to create a strain of mice with reduced sensitivity to colitis, chronic inflammation of the colon.
The results of the team's research have led to new understanding of ways in which human sensitivity to chronic diseases like colitis can be controlled. Some 5 million people worldwide suffer from infectious and chronic intestinal disease, including some 30,000 Israelis. This type of disease has a severe impact on patients' quality of life, and can also lead to the development of fatal intestinal diseases such as colon cancer.
Prof. Uri Nir headed the study. Doctoral candidate Shai Bel identified a gene known as TMF that controls the mucous structure in the colons of mammals. Bel found that a defect in this gene that prevents it from operating properly leads to a change in the mucous structure, which in turn causes a significant increase in the amount of probiotic bacteria in the intestine.
These bacteria keep the colon from developing colitis. The trait of resistance to disease can be transferred from the genetically engineered mice to regular mice by exposing the control group to the intestinal bacteria of the genetically engineered ones.
The results of the study were published this month in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.