McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine
affiliated faculty member Kang Kim, PhD (pictured), assistant professor of medicine and bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh and the Cardiovascular Institute, was a member of the team of researchers conducting a study of a new imaging method which helps doctors tell whether a patient with Crohn’s disease has intestinal fibrosis, which requires surgery, or inflammation, which can be treated with medicine.
According to the University of Michigan-led study, ultrasound elasticity imaging, or UEI, could allow doctors to noninvasively make the distinction between inflammation and fibrosis, allowing patients to receive more appropriate and timely care. The study was recently published in the journal, Gastroenterology.
Crohn’s disease patients suffer from chronic inflammation of the intestines, which over time can cause scar tissue to form, resulting in intestinal fibrosis.
Patients with intestinal inflammation usually are treated with medicines that suppress their immune system, while patients with fibrosis are treated surgically. Because current diagnostic tests, including CT scans and MRIs, cannot detect the difference between the two conditions, many patients with fibrosis are often initially treated with immune system-suppressing drugs, which are expensive and are unlikely to help.
Inflamed intestinal tissue is softer than fibrotic tissue, which is hard and thick. The new method uses ultrasound to measure the relative hardness and thickness of tissue inside the body, potentially allowing doctors to differentiate between the two conditions without performing surgery. In animal models, UEI was able to accurately tell the difference between inflamed tissue and scar tissue.
The researchers also found that UEI was capable of differentiating between fibrotic and unaffected intestine in a pilot human study. Patients already scheduled for surgical treatment underwent UEI assessment prior to surgery, and fibrotic strictures were identified in each case.
The next step in the group’s research is a long-term human clinical trial, beginning this winter. If UEI is able to accurately assess a patient’s condition, doctors will be able to more efficiently treat Crohn’s disease patients suffering from inflammation or fibrosis.
Illustration: McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
University of Michigan Health System News (10/14/11)
Science Daily (10/14/11)
Bio: Dr. Kang Kim
Abstract (Gastroenterology. 2011 Sep;141(3):819-826.e1.)