Researchers develop vaccine that targets Crohn's disease and obesity

Researchers with INSERM in Paris have detailed their development of a new vaccine strategy that shows promise for treating inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn's disease, as well as metabolic conditions like obesity. Key to the vaccine's potential effectiveness is gut microbiota, abnormalities of which have been linked to a variety of health conditions. The new vaccine works by modifying these bacteria to protect the intestinal wall.

Chronic inflammatory bowel diseases result from persistent inflammation in the digestive tract, causing pain, bleeding, and other problems. Though some sufferers have found relief by modifying their diet, others struggle to manage their condition and that's where a new 'vaccine' may come into play.

Past studies have shown that people suffering from these bowel conditions generally have less diversity in their gut microbiota, as well as too must bacteria that express flagellin, a protein. Excessive flagellin may make it possible for the bacteria to penetrate the protective mucosa covering the intestinal wall.

Once that happens, the body in both humans and animals may respond with inflammation, the chronic presence of which can disrupt one's life and health. The newly detailed vaccine strategy is designed to stimulate the production of an anti-flagellin antibody naturally found in the protective mucus lining, ultimately suppressing the bacteria behind the flagellin.

The researchers tested their vaccination method on mice and compared the results to that of vaccinated mice. The study found that vaccinated mice didn't have any flagellin in their intestinal mucosa, that levels of the bacteria expressing this protein were reduced, and that the mice were largely protected from intestinal inflammation.

The same vaccine protocol was used to test its effect on metabolic disorders in mice; the team found that in mice fed a high-fat diet, the vaccinated animals didn't develop obesity while the unvaccinated mice did. The findings show promise as a potential future treatment for diabetes, obesity, and IBD.