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Sidra-Sponsored Research wins Prize of Distinction at International Gastrointestinal Sciences Meeting

The Sidra-sponsored study, “A Phase I/II trial of the use of Glucagon-like Peptide 2 in intestinal failure in children,” received the prize of distinction for novel therapies in intestinal failure at the 2014 American Gastroenterology Association annual meeting held in Chicago.

Dr. David Sigalet, Sidra’s Clinical Service Chief of Surgery, has dedicated his career to studying Intestinal Failure – a life threatening condition. Also known as short bowel syndrome or SBS, it is most common in the smallest premature infants. Dr. Sigalet and his team have been addressing the unmet need for more SBS research by leading a trial that examines a new hormonal therapy for the treatment of infants and children who have undergone major intestinal surgery. Their research was recently recognized with the prize of distinction for novel therapies in intestinal failure at the 2014 American Gastroenterology Association annual meeting held in Chicago.

Intestinal failure is caused by the surgical removal of the small intestine or an intestine that has not fully developed. It causes the malabsorption of nutrients which can lead to serious medical consequences. Despite the life-threatening nature of the condition, intestinal failure receives relatively little attention from the medical community.

Without specialized support and therapy, the death rate can be as high as 25% in babies with intestinal failure. Currently, there are approximately 20-40 cases of babies suffering from this condition in Qatar every year. Sidra’s goal is to offer its patients the highest standard of care, while researching genetics and immune factors which may contribute to the development of this condition in the first place.

Dr. Sigalet and his team have been studying the recovery experience of infants following a major surgical intervention in the intestine. These operations are common in neonates, especially when premature, as the developing intestine is uniquely susceptible to injury from changes in blood flow and from invasive infections. Notably, the main factor which has been shown to protect against these problems is the use of breast milk in the early feeding of these infants.

The group has found that a specific hormone, known as Glucagon-like peptide 2, appears to be a ‘signal’ for the intestine to turn on growth within the lining, or mucosa, which in turn increases its efficiency and function. This study examined the first ever use of this hormone in children and showed that the hormone was safe and well tolerated. This will now allow for further studies aimed at examining the effect of GLP-2 on nutrient absorption in longer term-studies, in children and younger infants. The goal will be to shorten or eliminate the long phase of intravenous feedings (Parenteral Nutrition) which is the current usual therapy.

The research and production of this hormone is being supported by Sidra, with the aim of using this new innovative treatment as a therapy here in Qatar.

Dr. Sigalet says, “We want to bring the knowledge and treatment that we have about this condition to Sidra and Qatar. We need to further understand the diseases of this population and understand the differences and challenges that these infants face. It is our job to address these issues, focus our research and make sure we are delivering the most successful treatment for babies with this condition. I was delighted to win this award at Digestive Disease Week as it highlights the amazing research that we have done and the progress we have made in helping babies with this condition. We have used this treatment in 13 children so far and the aim is for this to be the treatment of choice in the future.”