Colitis (ulcerative colitis)

Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) wherein the cells lining the walls of the rectum and colon develop sores and ulcers due to inflammatory process initiated by the cells of the immune system. This inflammatory reaction leads to damage to the lower digestive tract leading to bleeding and signs of frequent bowl movement or diarrhea. Approximately 4 million people world-wide have the disease and are at increased colon cancer risk. While not everyone with colitis will develop colon cancer, risk increases when length of disease exceeds 10 years, on the order of 0.5-1.0% per year. It affects men and women equally and whites and people of Jewish descent have higher incidence. Although the exact cause of the disease is not known, environmental factors, genetics, and bacterial flora can trigger an abnormal immune response culminating in a dynamic and chronic inflammatory process. Stress and food allergies can also exacerbate this process.


The most obvious symptoms of colitis are abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea and associated other conditions like anemia, fatigue and weight loss.


Conventional treatment of colitis can reduce periods of active disease and help to maintain remission, but these treatments can have side effects, can have marginal results, and some patients become refractory. The emphasis is on controlling the inflammation. Depending upon the severity and individual differences the anti-inflammatory drugs containing 5-aminosalicyclic acid (5-ASA) like sulfasalazine, olsalazine, mesalamine, and balsalazide, or coticosteroids like prednisone, methylprednisone, and hydrocortisone along with drugs to relieve pain, diarrhea, or infection are prescribed. Newer treatment strategies for moderate to severe colitis include the use of tumor necrosis factor-alpha antibodies, which neutralize this pro-inflammatory molecule.

Murine models of colitis

There are many mouse models of colitis, including spontaneous models, and models induced by genetic manipulation. Colitis can also be induced by chemicals, such as acetic acid, dextran sodium sulfate (DSS), oxazolone and trinitrobenzene sulfonic acid (TNBS). These latter models have the benefit of altering dose, so that one can study the effects of potential treatments on mild, moderate, and severe forms of colitis.

CAM therapy against colitis

It is estimated that as much as 50% of ulcerative colitis patients use some form of megavitamin therapy or herbal/dietary supplement. These have included use of flax seed, pro-biotics, aloe vera, and garlic as herbal therapies, carbohydrate specific diets, or diets without gluten or with salmon oil.

 Study at the Center 

The center will be investigating the mechanism(s) by which American ginseng (Pana quinquefolius), a natural herb and a putative anti-oxidant suppresses the inflammatory response associated with colitis. The study will also investigate the active components of American ginseng that inhibit colitis.

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