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New "Designer" Fiber May Help Address Fiber Intolerance and Ease IBS Symptoms
$2.5 million federal grant to develop Rush/Purdue-Designed fiber

A newly developed, "designer" dietary fiber with an added potential prebiotic effect may eliminate the side effects of current treatment for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which affects 10 to 20 percent of the population, disproportionately women.

The collaboration between a gastroenterologist at Rush and a carbohydrate chemist at Purdue University led to the development of the new product, a natural starch derived from a mixture of seaweed and starch. Release of starch fiber in the gastrointestinal tract can be delayed, slowed and controlled to occur in the colon, rather than in the stomach and upper intestine.

"This new product prevents the discomfort and bloating associated with current fiber therapies, while getting our new fiber into the colon and specifically distal colon, where traditional fiber products typically do not reach and where many diseases of colon-like cancers develop,” said Ece Mutlu, MD. principal investigator the phase II trial that will begin at Rush in January 2014. “This can provide an effective treatment for IBS, decrease the risk of colon cancer and possibly inflammatory diseases like colitis.” The study seeks 200 people who have been diagnosed with IBS and constipation.

In an earlier phase I study with 60 patients suffering from constipation, the designed fiber was shown to be safe, better tolerated and with fewer side effects than currently available fiber treatments for constipation, and it had a positive effect on intestinal microbiota composition by promoting the growth of "healthy" bacteria in the colon.

“We wanted to create a fiber with a slow rate of fermentation to avoid rapid expansion of the gut and thus decrease the likelihood of common side effects of conventionally used fibers like bloating,” said Ali Keshavarzian, MD, professor and director of gastroenterology at Rush.

The fiber is a targeted, controlled-release fiber that travels through the large intestine to be fermented by bacteria in the entire colon including the descending [distal] colon where colon cancer, diverticulitis, ulcerative colitis and irritability commonly occur. The fiber can be designed to target different locations. This enables the bacteria in the large intestine to receive important nutrients from the fiber, which promotes overall gut health.

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