The role nanoparticles play in the imaging and therapy of inflammatory bowel disease is discussed in this article.
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Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can be described as the prolonged inflammation of the digestive tract comprising two primary forms, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. These gastrointestinal disorders are associated with an imbalance in the intestinal microbiota and can cause severe adverse symptoms in patients, including abdominal pain, anemia, bleeding, diarrhea, as well as weight loss.
IBD can have a severe impact on quality of life, with an increasing worldwide prevalence of between 40-50 cases per 100,000 people per year, and with no current permanent cure, novel research is paramount.
Underlying Disease Factors
While the pathogenesis of IBD has not yet been fully understood, a few underlying factors that increase the occurrence and development of this disease include environmental, immunological, genomic and microbial.
Environmental factors can be described as the predominant reason for an increased incidence of IBD, comprising but not limited to geography, air pollution, childhood and adult life. Childhood life can include factors relating to the mode of birth, breastfeeding, and whether they were exposed to antibiotics, while adult life can include lifestyle factors such as smoking, stress and diet.
However, there is also a genetic component that can be ascribed to disease onset, including modifications to more than 200 genes, including NOD2, which can cause fibrous stenosis in patients with Crohn’s disease.
Additionally, other factors can also include immunology, relating to an imbalance of immune cells as well as inflammatory cytokines, which can result in dysfunction of the immune system.
The gut microbiota is also a factor that has been reported to influence the onset of IBD, with alterations of this highly critical bodily element being characteristic of the disease, including changes to the composition of the gut microflora as well as the function.
Nanotechnology Applications for IBD
Nanotechnology has innovated many applications, including medicine and pharmaceuticals, with the versatility to meet any current challenges.
Nanoparticles that are between 1 and 100 nm in size, have increased the value of the field due to their associated ability to be used in many ways, including as a drug delivery system, targetability enhancer, as well as for imaging. Subsequently, this can result in disease prevention, early diagnosis, accurate and effective treatment as well as better prognoses.
Treating ulcerative colitis can include aminosalicylates for mild/moderate forms, corticosteroids for moderate-to-severe forms and cyclosporine for severe forms. The treatment for Crohn’s disease is dependent on its location as well as ‘behavior’ to assess the best treatment. However, prolonged use of these treatments can have severe adverse effects, including pancreatitis, nausea, allergic reactions and elevated liver enzymes. This can be challenging for the elderly and vulnerable populations.
Currently, the advancements for this global disease have included biologic therapies, which have emerged recently, and can include monoclonal antibodies to tumor necrosis factor.
Interestingly, the use of nanotechnology for this disease could be seen in the recent future with research into targeted drug delivery with a personalized medicine approach.
Novel research in this area includes using nanoparticles that carry drug cargo into the body to actively target diseased tissue, without systemic or adverse effects to the neighboring healthy cells. When applying this approach to IBD concerning the disease severity of an individual patient, efficacy can be improved, with lower doses being used and less adverse effects and risks being experienced. Additionally, with drug release being controlled by nanoparticles over a longer time, the frequency of doses, as well as dosage, can be lowered.
Overall, this can result in patients having a higher quality of life and can lead to patients having less frequent scans, as well as less frequent medications, which can burden and disrupt normal life. Furthermore, treating their IBD symptoms and disease can aid them in regaining control of their lives; as for many IBD sufferers, their diagnosis can impact their socio-economic lifestyles, burdening their everyday life as well as working capacity and finances.
The versatility of nanoparticles translates to this innovative technology also being utilized for imaging, with research showing dextran-coated nanoparticles potentially being used for computed tomography (CT) contrast agents when imaging the gastrointestinal tract. This can be a critical advancement for IBD patients as traditional agents are iodine and barium-based, which are not specific for inflammatory sites within the GI tract, meaning they may not prove to be as accurate when determining the extent and location of the disease. Such a development can translate into being provided with a less comprehensive diagnosis and treatment plan that may not be as effective.
Additionally, another study has analyzed the use of a nanodevice, including polyethylene glycol-based nanocarriers, coupled with cell adhesion molecules and loaded with quantum dots, which was found to be beneficial for providing a precise and accurate diagnosis of IBD.
Precise diagnoses utilizing nanoparticles coupled with nanoparticle-based targeted therapy for IBD patients have the potential to evolve the treatment landscape and provide this population with a better and more effective quality of life.
The use of nanoparticles and nanotechnology as a field has been promising for many applications and advancing medical treatments for disease control and prevention can aid in a healthier global population with an alleviated disease burden.
Further Reading and References
Barani M, Rahdar A, Sargazi S, Amiri MS, Sharma PK, Bhalla N. (2021) Nanotechnology for inflammatory bowel disease management: Detection, imaging and treatment. Sensing and Bio-Sensing Research. 32, p. 100417. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214180421000222.
Nedelcu A, Mosteanu O, Pop T, Mocan T, Mocan L. (2021) Recent advances in nanoparticle-mediated treatment of inflammatory bowel diseases. Applied Sciences. 11(1), p. 438. https://www.mdpi.com/2076-3417/11/1/438.
Ren Q, Sun S, Zhang X-D. (2021) Redox-active nanoparticles for inflammatory bowel disease. Nano Research. 14(8), pp. 2535-2557. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12274-021-3303-5.