Drug study underway at Medical College of GA looking at the effects of Linzess on brain/gut connection
Augusta, GA -
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a condition that affects one in 15 people, primarily women between the ages of 30-50. The symptoms aren't nice: painful diarrhea, constipation or bouts of both. Dr. Satish Rao and his team at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University are working to understand how Linzess impacts the brain/gut connection that causes intense belly pain in IBS patients.
And they're figuring it out by stimulating the brain with magnets.
You've seen the commercial: Linzess is just the second drug approved by the FDA for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. It eases excruciating stomach pain in about 1/3 of the patients who use it. Exactly how it does that is a mystery.
"The drug is just the icing on the cake to take care of those other crazy symptoms that we get-- it's a lot of help," says 28-year-old Porsha Beasley.
Beasley says her quality of life is much better these days, thanks to the drug Linaclotide, marketed as Linzess. She has suffered with the cramping and debilitating pain of IBS for more than 10 years.
"I was missing work and I was going days without eating and taking stimulants to function."
Porsha is one of 45 people enrolled in a study at the Medical College of Georgia at GRU, being led by Dr. Satish Rao, the founding director of the university's Digestive Health Center. He had previously diagnosed Porsha as both lactose and fructose intolerant. Despite dietary changes, her pain problems persisted.
Animal studies have shown that Linaclotide is effective in two ways: Increasing secretions of chloride ions, water, and salt inside the body. And easing IBS pain by numbing the nerves firing from the gut.
"But we don't have any human proof as to how the drug actually helps constipation, helps bloating, and helps discomfort and pain."
Dr. Rao is getting that proof now, in a series of 12-week studies documenting how long it takes the brain to communicate with the gut, and vice versa, through Trans cranial Magnet Stimulation.
"We stimulate the left side and there's activity in the right and then we stimulate the right side of the brain and have activity in the left side of the body."
And because communication is a two-way street, he does the same in reverse: stimulates the anus and rectum and measure's the brain's response. Baseline readings of brain/gut communication are compared to changes in these wave patterns over the course of treatment.
Dr. Rao studies the height and width of the waves, detecting changes in response patterns.
"All of that helps us understand how the brain is talking to the gut: so, let's say it normally takes 30 milliseconds, IBS patients within 15, 18 milliseconds that signal appears-- so it's a very fast transmission."
Dr. Rao believes that targeting the way the drug works will improve treatment options for IBS patients, who now have an alternative drug to the stimulant/calming drug classes of the past.
"And this drug doesn't get absorbed, it just stays in the gut and thereby acts locally, improving constipation and pain and bloating."
As for Porsha, she says it's the best treatment she's had in her decade of dealing with IBS.
"It may not be the way you prefer it, but it does help way more than other medicines I've taken."