The research team, led by Dr Didier Merlin alongside the Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the Institute for Biomedical Sciences at Georgia State University, report their findings in the September 2016 issue of Biomaterials.
Existing treatments for IBD, usually either anti-inflammatory medication or therapeutic measures, are hampered by their side effects.
“Thus, there is an unmet need for a carrier system capable of delivering drugs specifically and exclusively to the inflamed regions for a prolonged period of time. Such a system could significantly reduce the side effects of existing, otherwise effective, treatments,” states the study.
“To address this formidable challenge, targeting drug carriers based on nanoparticles have been designed and have shown great promises for improving IBD treatment.”
Recent observations suggest that the application of plants as “nanofactories” for the fabrication of medical nanoparticles could represent a new approach for IBD treatment, leading the research team to test the suitability of ginger.
“Ginger, the rhizome of Zingiber officinale, is one of the most widely used natural products,” the study states. “It is consumed as a spice and used as a medicine for the treatment of nausea, as well as other digestive tract problems like colic, flatulence, diarrhoea and dyspepsia. Studies have also shown that ginger and its active components, including 6-gingerol and 6-shogaol, exert anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer activities,” researchers note.
They tested three Ginger-derived nanoparticles (GDNP), which had been isolated from ginger juice and purified using a sucrose gradient ultracentrifugation method.
“GDNPs mainly accumulated at the 8/30% (band 1) and 30/45% (band 2) interfaces of the sucrose gradient; a faint band was also detected at the 45/60% interface (band 3),” the study reports.
Each ginger-based nanoparticle was about 230 nanometers in diameter. More than 300 of them could fit across the width of a human hair.
Fed to lab mice, the particles appeared to be nontoxic and had significant therapeutic effects, with GDNP 2 seemingly the most beneficial.
The study shows they were absorbed mainly by cells in the lining of the intestines, where IBD inflammation occurs.
The particles were also shown to reduce acute colitis and prevented chronic colitis and colitis-associated cancer, and they enhanced intestinal repair.
Specifically, they boosted the survival and proliferation of the cells that make up the lining of the colon. They also lowered the production of proteins that promote inflammation, and raised the levels of proteins that fight inflammation.
“Unlike most IBD drugs, which must be administered systemically and are thus associated with serious side effects, GDNPs 2 are delivered orally, offering several advantages over other therapeutic routes. Importantly, oral administration supports our primary goal of delivering GDNPs 2 to the colon, which is the site of intestinal inflammation in ulcerative colitis,” the study adds.
Part of the therapeutic effect, say the researchers, comes from the high levels of lipids in the particles, a result of the natural lipids in the ginger plant.
The particles also retained key active constituents found naturally in ginger, such as 6-gingerol and 6-shogaol.
Delivering these compounds in a nanoparticle, says Merlin's team, may be a more effective way to target colon tissue than simply providing the herb as a food or as a traditional supplement.
The study concludes: “GDNPs 2, nanoparticles derived from edible ginger, represent a novel, natural delivery mechanism for improving IBD prevention and treatment with an added benefit of overcoming limitations such as potential toxicity and limited production scale that are common with synthetic nanoparticles.”
“Edible ginger-derived nanoparticles: A novel therapeutic approach for the prevention and treatment of inflammatory bowel disease and colitis-associated cancer.”
Authors: Didier Merlin, et al