Professors’ work helps detect Crohn’s, other bowel diseases
Published: Sunday, April 22, 2012
Updated: Sunday, April 22, 2012 16:04
Blending their research together into one effort, two UCF faculty members have created a scientific technique that may help doctors better understand diseases.
Professor Saleh Naser and Associate Professor J. Manuel Perez have developed a nanoparticle-based technique that allows doctors to effectively and quickly detect pathogens that cause Crohn’s disease and other inflammatory bowel diseases.
The technique, which was recently published earlier this month in PLoS ONE, a peer-reviewed scientific journal, builds off of a previous polymerase chain reaction DNA-based technique that Naser and Perez developed, by adding nanosensors labeled with probes that detect and bind themselves to certain bacteria.
Taking advantage of this nanotechnology, Naser hopes that this will help scientists better understand where hard-to-trace diseases, such as Crohn’s disease, come from.
“Crohn’s disease is a controversial disease,” said Naser, who teaches in the College of Medicine and the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences. “There are different schools of thought about what causes the disease and the reason for the controversy is the lack of consistent, fast, diagnostic and reliable methods to find the bacteria in clinical samples. Now, with this technology we developed with Dr. Perez at UCF, we have a fast method, it is effective, it is specific, it is sensitive and ultimately it can give the doctor an answer within an hour and the doctor accordingly can give appropriate medication to his patients.”
Naser said that, of the multiple theories of what causes Crohn’s disease, he believes that a bacterium known as Mycobacterium paratuberculosis, also known as MAP, is the cause of the intestinal disease.
Having studied Crohn’s disease for more than 20 years, Naser decided to test the technique with blood and tissue containing MAP, in an effort to detect the bacteria with the nanosensors and progress his theory.
“My collaboration with Dr. Perez started a few years ago. We joint-submitted a successful grant proposal to the National Institute of Health and have been since working diligently on the development of nanosensors. Dr. Perez developed the nanoparticles and my lab provided him with specific probes and the biological systems to evaluate these sensors,” Naser said. “Throughout the process, we tested a large number of bacterial cultures as well as blood and tissue we obtained from patients at the University of Florida. We believe the concept of these nanosensors can be applied for the diagnosis of other microorganisms including bacteria and viruses. This technology really opened the door to so many possibilities.”
After tests were performed, Naser and Perez found that not only were they able to detect the bacteria, they were able to obtain the results much faster with the addition of these nanosensors.
“These are very small particles, which we coated with DNA probes specific to MAP. The probes were then detected using a device which records the presence or absence of the bacteria in the patient sample,” Naser said. “The magic in all of this is that the entire process may be done within an hour. This is exciting because for the first time ever, we can report the presence of MAP in clinical samples in record time of minutes instead of weeks or months.”
Perez said it is vital to make the process faster in order to help doctors treat patients.
“It is all about giving medical professionals easy and reliable tools to better understand the spread of a disease, while helping people get treatment faster,” Perez said in a UCF Today article. “That’s my goal. And that’s where nanotechnology really has a lot to offer, particularly when the technology has been validated using clinical, food and environmental samples as is in our case.”
Richard Peppler, the associate dean for Faculty and Academic Affairs and the interim director for the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences, praised Perez, Naser and their research team for their hard work.
“I think it’s wonderful. I think it’s an example of the collaboration of faculty between two different units within the university,” Peppler said. “It’s showing how we can take something from the bench to the bedside and it’s gonna improve the health for patients with Crohn’s disease and other GI problems.”
Naser stressed that the real purpose of this hard work is to allow doctors to find these bacteria, leading to the elimination of the cause entirely through antibiotics.
“Ultimately, the big winner in all of this will be the patients, because current treatment for Crohn’s disease is an anti-inflammatory, which are considered management medications; these medications are not given to the patient for a cure,” Naser said “Now, the patients can be tested for MAP using UCF nanosensors and if the patient is positive, then the doctor will be able prescribe antibiotics that we know are effective and lethal against the bacteria; this will lead to a cure.”
Naser also said that he hopes the technique will eventually be licensed by a company that specializes in diagnosing and treating chronic diseases.