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Crohn's disease is a rare, inflammatory bowel disease characterized by severe, chronic inflammation of the lining of the digestive tract. Usually it affects the lower part of the small intestine, but inflammation can also occur in any part of the large or small intestine, stomach, or esophagus or even in the mouth. While Crohn's disease is more commonly diagnosed in adults, approximately 25 per cent cases are seen in children and teenagers. Symptoms associated with Crohn's disease include cramping, abdominal pain, severe diarrhoea, fatigue, weight loss and malnutrition. In children, it can stunt growth, weaken bones, and delay puberty.
Current treatments for Crohn's disease include biologic antibody therapies, and in severe cases surgery. Antibody therapies carry risk of many side effects, including increased risk of certain cancers. Here's the good news - researchers, including an Indian-origin scientist, have come up with a safer alternative to current antibody therapies for Crohn's disease in children. In a rodent model of severe Crohn's disease, they found nanotherapy helped reduce intestinal inflammation and shrink lesions dramatically.
Arun Sharma from Northwestern University in the US, who was involved in the study, described the results as "phenomenal" and said this therapy could salvage inflammatory tissue and do away with the need to surgically remove segments of the intestine in severe cases of Crohn's disease. According to the researchers, 70 per cent of patients with Crohn's disease require surgery during their lifetime and many also need additional surgery.
Sharma added that their study results, published in the journal Advanced Therapeutics, also provides proof of principle findings that nanotherapy may be applicable to other inflammatory bowel diseases, such as ulcerative colitis, as well.
To translate their work to clinical application, the researchers is developing a less invasive mode of delivery, such as oral or via endoscopy.
The exact cause of Crohn's disease in children is not fully understood, but multiple factors including genetic, immunologic, and environmental triggers are thought to play role in creating this condition.
In children, Crohn's disease appears to develop because of malfunctioning of the body's immune system that targets the gastrointestinal tract. However, the reason as to why the immune system malfunctions is not clear yet.
Genetic factors are responsible for some cases of pediatric Crohn's disease. This means a child has a greater chance of developing Crohn's disease if a family member had the disorder.
Several genes have been found altered (mutated) in children with Crohn's disease, including the NOD2, ATG16L1, IL23R, and IRGM genes, that are involved in the functioning of the immune system. More than 200 different genes are known to be associated with Crohn's disease.
Environmental factors linked to Crohn's disease include bacterial or viral infections that can directly or indirectly damage the gastrointestinal tract. Frequent antibiotic use, Westernized diet, and smoking are also associated with an increased risk of developing Crohn's disease.
An increasing incidence of Crohn's disease in children below 6 years old, called very early onset (VEO) inflammatory bowel disease, is being observed over the recent years. Boys are more commonly affected with the disorder than girls.
With inputs from agencies
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