New research with algae brings hope for inflammatory bowel diseases
What if the solution for a chronic disease lies in our oceans, rivers or lakes? That is exactly the question that the new research project Algae4IBD is expected to answer in the next four years. The EU-funded project, with CCMAR as a partner, aims to identify compounds from algae that are effective against inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and developing them into functional foods and new medication.
Around the world, more than 6.8 million people suffer from IBD and other diseases in the digestive system. Inflammatory bowel disease, which describes both Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn's Disease, is a disorder in the intestines that causes prolonged inflammation. This type of disease damages the digestive system and is associated with a high risk of colorectal cancer.
Existing treatment options are expensive, and patients do not respond well to them. “People who are suffering from this disease want a solution and are already very excited with the prospect that it may come from our project,” says the project coordinator Dorit Avni from the MIGAL research institute in Israel.
The prevalence of IBD has been increasing in the last decades, especially in developed countries, and it is affecting younger age groups. Algae can be the missing ingredient that this consortium hopes to add to functional foods - such as cereals and smoothies - to prevent, treat and reduce the symptoms of IBD. "The research of bioactive compounds in algae and microalgae is a work that has been developed for a few years, in CCMAR, and has proven that these organisms have a huge potential for the development of new products with application in the food and pharmaceutical industries, among others," says our researcher Luísa Barreira.
On 14 and 15th of June, the 21 partners came together for a kick-off meeting to launch this new project that includes partners from eleven European countries: researchers and experts in algae growth and production, gastroenterologists, functional food developers, and small to medium-sized pharmaceutical companies. This multidisciplinary group brings the expertise needed to develop products that will hopefully prevent and treat this disease. Our researchers Luísa Barreira, João Varela, Dina Simes and Carla Viegas, and our partner Greencolab participate in this project.
The launch of this Horizon 2020 project can be an important source of hope for all people dealing with this type of disease daily in Europe and around the world.