Researchers Discover That Protein Produced in Gut Could Stave Off Life-Threatening Side Effect in Bone Marrow Transplants
Findings Could Lead to New Treatments for Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Other GI Illnesses
Researchers at Mount Sinai have discovered that an antimicrobial protein found in the gut can stave off a common and highly lethal side effect of bone marrow transplants, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation in September.
The protein, regenerating islet-derived 3-alpha (REG3α), is made by cells in the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. It plays a role in a complication of bone marrow transplants called graft-versus-host-disease (GVHD), in which the donated bone marrow’s immune cells attack the patient’s gastrointestinal tract.
This study shows that GVHD causes increased serum levels of REG3α throughout the body while, paradoxically, decreasing the production of the protein in the gastrointestinal tract as GVHD worsens.
The Mount Sinai researchers showed that mice that could not make the protein did not survive GVHD, but also found that adding REG3α to human gastrointestinal cell lines prolonged their survival, confirming its unexpected function. These findings demonstrated that REG3α, previously only considered a biomarker for GVHD, can have a role in saving patients from the disease.
While patients suffering from GVHD are normally given immune suppressants, this research suggested that enhancing the immune system with REG3α is a better strategy and may also be helpful for illnesses such as inflammatory bowel disease that also involve the immune system in the gastrointestinal tract.
“There is a way to treat immune disorders of the gastrointestinal tract by enhancing the immune system rather than suppressing it, as we do now,” said lead researcher James Ferrara, MD, Ward-Coleman Chair of Cancer Medicine and Director of the Hematologic Malignancies Translational Research Center at The Tisch Cancer Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and Co-Director of the Mount Sinai Acute GVHD International Consortium (MAGIC). “These results show a new function for the lining of the gastrointestinal tract protecting itself, leading to a new class of drugs.”
CLICK HERE for a video of Dr. Ferrera talking about the research.
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Mount Sinai Health System is one of the largest academic medical systems in the New York metro area, with more than 43,000 employees working across eight hospitals, over 400 outpatient practices, nearly 300 labs, a school of nursing, and a leading school of medicine and graduate education. Mount Sinai advances health for all people, everywhere, by taking on the most complex health care challenges of our time — discovering and applying new scientific learning and knowledge; developing safer, more effective treatments; educating the next generation of medical leaders and innovators; and supporting local communities by delivering high-quality care to all who need it.
Through the integration of its hospitals, labs, and schools, Mount Sinai offers comprehensive health care solutions from birth through geriatrics, leveraging innovative approaches such as artificial intelligence and informatics while keeping patients’ medical and emotional needs at the center of all treatment. The Health System includes approximately 7,300 primary and specialty care physicians; 13 joint-venture outpatient surgery centers throughout the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester, Long Island, and Florida; and more than 30 affiliated community health centers. We are consistently ranked by U.S. News & World Report's Best Hospitals, receiving high "Honor Roll" status, and are highly ranked: No. 1 in Geriatrics and top 20 in Cardiology/Heart Surgery, Diabetes/Endocrinology, Gastroenterology/GI Surgery, Neurology/Neurosurgery, Orthopedics, Pulmonology/Lung Surgery, Rehabilitation, and Urology. New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai is ranked No. 12 in Ophthalmology. U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Children’s Hospitals” ranks Mount Sinai Kravis Children's Hospital among the country’s best in several pediatric specialties.