Researchers at the University of Alabama in Birmingham have discovered that there is a distinct group of cells in the immune system that stimulate and perpetuate bowel inflammation.
A man grabs his stomach
IBD is a long-term condition that can affect the quality of life to a large extent, so finding a cure is vital.
Researchers believe that cells, a type of CD4 T cell, can serve as targets for new therapies to relieve or even treat inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Their findings also suggest that cells may be behind other disorders in which the immune system attacks healthy tissues, such as rheumatoid arthritis and type 1 diabetes.
A study paper on his work has been published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.
“Our hope is, if we can treat these cells, it could be treatment,” says lead author Laurie Harrington, a professor of cell biology, development and integration.
Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
IBD is a long-term condition in which inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract or bowel is caused by the continuous attack of the immune system.
There are two main types of IBD: ulcerative colitis, where colitis is primarily; and Crohn’s disease, where inflammation can occur anywhere in the gastrointestinal tract between the mouth and anus.
About 3 million adults in the United States were diagnosed with IBD at some point in their lives.
Symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease include: Urgent need to go to the bathroom, diarrhea, rectal bleeding, constipation that can lead to intestinal obstruction, convulsions and abdominal pain.
Intestinal inflammation and irritable bowel syndrome should not be confused, as intestinal damage is not caused by inflammation and gastrointestinal disease, which results from a particular reaction with gluten.
Autoimmunity and inflammation
Although scientists know that inflammatory bowel disease is a autoimmune disease caused by a defective immune response, the exact nature of the cells involved and mechanisms of action remain unclear.
The mammalian immune system contains a wide variety of cells that communicate with one another in a complex network of signals.
Under “natural” conditions, the immune system targets and eliminates pathogens, such as viruses and bacteria, that can harm the body before they have the opportunity to do so. When pathogens are completely eliminated, immune attacks stop.
But sometimes the process can go wrong and the immune system attacks the individual’s own cells as if they were pathogens.