Hydrogel Will Potentially Coat and Heal Ulcerative Colitis Lesions

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr. Jeff Karp Ph.D Associate Professor of Medicine Brigham and Women's Hospital Harvard Medical School Cambridge, MA  02139 Dr. Jeff Karp Ph.D
Associate Professor of Medicine
Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Harvard Medical School
Cambridge, MA  02139 and

Giovanni Traverso M.B., B.Ch., Ph.DDr-Giovanni-Traverso
The David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA


Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings

Dr. Karp: Almost all patients with ulcerative colitis will require enema-based therapy at some point in their treatment.  Enema therapy has 3 major issues.

  • It is difficult to retain
  • There is high systemic absorption of the drug (that can lead to toxic side effects), and
  • Compliance is low as patients must take enemas every day.

Our approach can potentially address all three.  The engineered gel that we designed has dual targeting capability. It rapidly attaches to ulcers within seconds to minutes (we have 5-10x less systemic absorption as the gel only attaches to ulcers) and selectively releases drug in the presence of ulcers, and we showed that we could reduce the dosing frequency.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Karp: I think patients should know that new approaches are on the horizon, and we are working hard to bring this to them as quickly as possible.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study

Dr. Traverso:.  We aim to develop these and related technologies to maximally treat patients suffering from inflammatory bowel disease.  To enable this, further pre-clinical development will have to be completed.  This includes further safety and toxicologic studies in both small and large animal models.

We are optimistic that the inflammatory-targeting hydrogel, which is made of constituents found in food, will likely be safe.  Furthermore, further validation in other disease colitis models will have to be proven to ensure the observations are consistent.  These may include different rodent models of colitis or other larger animal models of inflammatory bowel disease


An inflammation-targeting hydrogel for local drug delivery in inflammatory bowel disease, Sufeng Zhang et al., Science Translational Medicine, doi:10.1126/scitranslmed.aaa5657, published online 12 August 2015, abstract.

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Dr. Jeff Karp Ph.D and Giovanni Traverso M.B., B.Ch., Ph.D (2015). Hydrogel Will Potentially Coat and Heal Ulcerative Colitis Lesions 

Last Updated on August 16, 2015 by Marie Benz MD FAAD