Vegetable oil in the fight against gastric disease
The bacterium Helicobacter pylori is strongly associated with gastric ulcers and cancer. Unfortunately, treating the bacteria with antibiotics is difficult and with the increase in antibiotic resistance it can be a dangerous fight to take on. Given the high rate of ulcers and stomach cancers, the need for a better treatment is becoming more apparent. New research may bring hope (and of all things) in the form of vegetable oil.
To combat the infection, researchers developed LipoLLA, a therapeutic nanoparticle that contains linolenic acid, a component in vegetable oils. In mice, LipoLLA was safe and more effective against H. pylori infection than standard antibiotic treatments.
“Current H. pylori treatments are facing a major challenge—antibiotic resistance,” said Liangfang Zhang, PhD, professor in the UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center and Department of Nanoengineering.
“Our goal was to develop a nanotherapeutic that can tolerate the harsh gastric environment, kill H. pylori and avoid resistance.”
LipoLLA is a lipid (fat) particle that contains linolenic acid. When LipoLLA encountersH. pylori, it fuses with the bacterial membrane. Then the particle’s linolenic acid payload spills out, disrupting the membrane and killing the bacteria.
The group labeled LipoLLA particles with fluorescent markers, fed them to mice and watched as the particles distributed themselves in the stomach lining—and stayed there. After treatment, they measured bacterial load in the stomach and markers of inflammation. Compared to standard antibiotic therapies, LipoLLA was more effective at getting rid of H. pylori. What’s more, LipoLLA was not toxic to the mice and the bacteria did not develop resistance to the therapy.
“This is the first step to verify that we can make this therapeutic nanoparticle and demonstrate that it works to reduce H. pylori colonization. We’re now working to further enhance the particle, making it more stable and more effective,” Zhang said.
Of course more testing needs to be done, but given the low risk of toxicity or side effects from the LipoLLA particles, testing should move along fairly quickly. This is big news for the millions of people around the world who suffer from stomach ulcers caused by the bacteria, which is more common than it should be.
To be clear, there is not a definite link between the bacteria and stomach ulcers, or cancer, but the evidence is strong that it is at least one of the causes, if not the cause. So here’s hoping that it all works out, even if it will be a few years before we see human trials.
Thamphiwatana S., Marygorret Obonyo & Liangfang Zhang (2014). In vivo treatment of Helicobacter pylori infection with liposomal linolenic acid reduces colonization and ameliorates inflammation , Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 201418230. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1418230111