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Faecal microbial transfer and complex carbohydrates mediate protection against COPD

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a common cause of illness in around 500 million people worldwide. It is know that those with COPD have altered microbiomes compared to those without COPD, but the direct role of microbes in the pathogenesis of the disease are unclear.  A recent study using a mouse model of cigarette smoke induced COPD showed that faecal microbiota transplant (FMT) alleviated inflammation in COPR by improving the lung function and breathing, compared to mice that didn’t get a FMT. The research group then identified specific bacterial species that were associated with lung health. Next, they conducted a small human study to determine if altering the microbiome via a dietary intervention (using inulin) would improve symptoms in those with COPD. Compared to a placebo group, those given dietary inulin had an improved quality of life, which was linked to changes in microbiome composition. Overall, these results suggest that by altering the microbiome of those with COPD, disease symptoms and quality of life may improve.


Safina Gadeock awarded HRC Emerging Researcher Award

Congratulations to Dr. Safina Gadeock, who was one of the 13 researchers awarded the HRC Emerging Researcher, 2024 for her study on "Interferon-alpha targets as prognostic biomarkers for IBD patients". She aims to validate an innovative Type I Interferon (immunomodulatory molecules) biomarker panel to predict response to anti-TNFs in a cohort of NZ and US IBD patients; and elucidate the mechanism(s) driving Type I Interferon-dependent regenerative responses and epithelial barrier integrity in responsive IBD patients. This study will steer the development of an innovative biomarker panel that will help gastroenterologists tailor therapy for the approximately 50 per cent of non-responsive IBD patients.


Industrialised societies have less cellulose-digesting gut bacteria

Cellulose is a ubiquitous material in nature that makes up the cell wall of plants, and is a major component of dietary fibre. Animals such as cows and sheep have specialised digestive tracts containing ruminant bacteria that allow them to extract energy from cellulose. In 2003, it was confirmed that humans also have some gut bacteria that can process cellulose. These bacteria play an important role in supporting other bacteria in the gut to promote a healthy gut microbiome.

A recent study has shown that humans are host to many more of this variety of bacteria than previously known ­– some related to those found in livestock and some from our primate ancestors. It was also shown that these cellulose-digesting bacteria are being lost from industrialised societies, possibly due to our diets becoming lower in fibre. The authors suggest there may be potential for reintroduction or enrichment of cellulose-digesting bacteria in the gut through dietary changes.



First targeted therapy approved for metastatic colorectal cancer patients in more than a decade.

Fruquitinib has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat metastatic colorectal cancer in patients who have progressed from standard therapies, including chemotherapy and other targeted therapies. Targeted therapy is a type of cancer treatment that targets specific gene pathways and proteins that help cancer cells survive and grow. Fruquitinib is a selective kinase inhibitor that targets every vascular endothelial growth factor receptor (VEGFR). These receptors help the cancer form new blood vessels in a process called angiogenesis. This process allows the cancer to access the body’s nutrients. Fruquitinib specifically targets this process and will ‘starve’ the tumour of nutrients. This selectivity is important as the drug can be combined with other treatments. 

Fruquitinib, under the trade name FRUZAQLA, was approved after two phase 3 clinical trials; the FRESCO-2 trial, and the FRESCO trial, evaluating the drug in a combined cohort of 1100 patients, with the drug being safe and effective in 734 of those patients. Patients showed an increase in survival in both phase 3 trials of around 3 months compared to placebo. Targeted therapies are not funded by PHARMAC in New Zealand for metastatic colorectal cancer. Certain targeted therapies, such as Fruquitinib may be covered by health insurance or are available to patients under a cost-share program from treatment manufacturers, such as Roche. Patients in New Zealand should consult with a specialist in private care to see if they will benefit from targeted treatment. 

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Andy Highton awarded Kia Niwha Leader Fellowship

Congratulations to Gut Health Network member, Andy Highton, who was awarded a Kia Niwha Leader Fellowship


Vedolizumab supports intestinal stem cell recovery.

A recent study from the University of California, San Francisco showed that Vedolizumab (VDZ), an anti-integrin antibody, effective in the treatment for Colitis, plays an important role in limiting specific inflammatory immune, fibroblasts and endothelial cells to facilitate intestinal epithelial stem cell recovery. By using a combination of latest sequencing technologies, they provide a tool for comprehensive analysis of the inter cellular networks of the colon in health, disease, and during treatment. Implementing these new single-cell and spatial technologies simultaneously in individual patients will lead to more precise treatment algorithms, and therefore a way for precision medicine.

Click on the link below to see the study


Gut bacteria break down cholesterol

In a new study, researchers found that gut bacteria can break down cholesterol. They identified  bacteria in the human gut that have an enzyme that can convert cholesterol into a form that isn't absorbed by the body. The study supports previous work indicating a link between bacterial enzymes that can modify cholesterol. This research could potentially be used to develop probiotic-type treatments to replace or support traditional treatments for managing cholesterol, like statins.

For a summary of the research, click here

For the whole research paper, click here

Blog image credit:  Susanna Hamilton, Broad Communications


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