Irritable bowel syndrome is one of the diseases of civilization, and one of the most common digestive ailments. For years, experts have been looking for new, effective ways to treat it. It is a functional bowel disorder (lasting at least three months) associated with pain. The disease affects about one-third of adults, women more than twice as often as men. It may manifest with diarrhoea, constipation, but also bloating, nausea or vomiting.
The causes of the disease are still unknown. A number of factors may be responsible for the symptoms, for example intestinal motility disorders, gut–brain axis problems and celiac disease. Irritable bowel syndrome is extremely burdensome - it leads to lowered quality of life, may cause fear of visiting public places and travelling, and consequently - adversely affect the functioning of the patients in society. Commonly (in more than 70 percent patients diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome), disorders are accompanied by psychiatric symptoms such as depression, anxiety or insomnia.
The action of drugs known today is limited to alleviating the symptoms, but does not lead to eradication of the cause and curing the disease. The studies of employees of the Department of Biochemistry, Medical University of Lodz led by Prof. Jakub Fichna could be a breakthrough.
Member of the research team, intern Agata Jarmuż explores the interactions between opioid and cannabinoid systems, which are responsible, among other things, for the analgesic effect and inhibitory effect on intestinal peristalsis. The interaction of these two types of receptors affects the process of habituation of the gastrointestinal tract to codeine or morphine, intended to alleviate pain. "The aim of my research is to investigate the mechanisms that regulate the development of such tolerance in the gastrointestinal tract during chronic use of opioids" - explained Jarmuż.
"It has been demonstrated that activation of these two types of receptors inhibits intestinal function and reduces the so called visceral pain (pain originating from internal organs - PAP). By studying interactions between these receptors I want to prove that if we activate them at the same time, the development of tolerance will not occur: the patient will not develop tolerance to the drug, and the strength of the drug will not be weakened" - explained the young researcher.
"The results of my research can be the basis for the development of an effective and safe pharmacological agent in long-term treatment of the diarrhoeal form of irritable bowel syndrome" - said Jarmuż.
Agata Jarmuż, a medical student, is the author of seven scientific publications, as well as double beneficiary of the Ministry of Health scholarship. She has participated in a number of science promotion events on behalf of the Academy of Young Scientists of the Polish Academy of Sciences. In 2016 she received the title of the grantee of L'Oréal Polsla For Women and Science in the masters student category, becoming the youngest researcher in the history of the program.
PAP - Science and Scholarship in Poland