New discovery helping people cope with IBD

3.1 million people are living with IBD

Scott Dillingham is always on the run.

“Most of my life revolves around family activities and that family includes two very active daughters and two very active dogs,” Dillingham said.

But living with inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD, for nearly 25 years, means he’s always running to the bathroom.

“I suddenly found myself experiencing pretty dramatic symptoms, like urgency and blood, and was really quite scared,” he said.

About 3.1 million people in the United States are living with IBD.

It’s a disruptive condition that can cause chronic inflammation in part or all of the digestive tract, leading to abdominal pain and diarrhea. Researchers have now found a key to potentially shutting off the disease and its symptoms.

Researchers have identified a molecule called Divertin, which blocks an enzyme from breaking down the intestinal barrier. 

When that barrier breaks down, the immune system reacts to it and may think it’s under attack, causing inflammation that can lead to conditions such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

"So, if you can use this small molecule almost like a key to block that enzyme from breaking down the barrier, you can actually enhance or protect that barrier," Dillingham said. 

That can prevent IBD and relapses. 

For Scott, who takes immunosuppressants to keep his symptoms at bay, the discovery is great news. 

"Immunosuppressants leave you exposed to all sorts of other complications down the road," he said. "Being untethered from that dependency would be life-changing."

Researchers say using the Divertin molecule to enhance the intestinal barrier may also help with other diseases, such as celiac disease and multiple sclerosis.