Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Scientists Have Found a Major Cause of Inflammatory Bowel Disease

UK scientists have discovered a major cause of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), a condition that affects nearly 2.4 individuals in the U.S.

The study, which was conducted at the Francis Crick Institute and University College London, found a ‘weak spot’ in our DNA that is present in 95 percent of those with IBD.

Ultimately, it’s this ‘weak spot’ that makes the body’s immune system go haywire, causing excessive inflammation in the GI tract.

ibd study
The study was published in the scientific journal nature on June 5, 2024.

The team of scientists also found existing drugs that are capable of reversing the disease in a lab setting. The next step is to move forward with human trials.

What Happens With Inflammatory Bowel Disease?

Macrophages, also known as white blood cells, are one of the main drivers of the disease.

In healthy individuals, macrophages help prevent infection by ingesting dead cells, tumor cells, and other foreign materials in the body.

In those with IBD, however, they flood to the intestinal lining, where they release cytokines, small proteins that lead to massive inflammation.

ibd inflammation

While inflammation is a normal response to infection, too much can have negative consequences.

While performing a deep genetic analysis of the condition, the team of researchers were able to determine a section of DNA, or genetic code, that functions as the white blood cells’ inflammation regulator.

According to Dr. James Lee, who took part in the study, the gene controls the amount of cytokines that white blood cells release and some people are born with a version that makes them more prone to excessive inflammation. He described it as ‘one of the central pathways’ that goes haywire for individuals to get IBD.

Potential Drugs That Can Relieve the Inflammation

Additional studies showed that some drugs, such as those used for cancer, can help alleviate the inflammation.

Since the drugs already exist, it gives the scientists a head start. However, they will still need to find a way to target just the white blood cells so that they won’t cause other adverse effects in the body.

They will also need to calibrate the drugs carefully so that they will calm the excessive inflammation. but will not leave an individual susceptible to infection due to a lack of ‘good’ inflammation.

The team plans on launching clinical trials within the next five years.

Ruth Wakeman, the Director of Services at Crohn’s & Colitis UK, is hopeful that the research will one day lead to a world free of colitis and Crohn’s disease.

Still, genetics is only half the story. In most individuals, there is also a trigger that causes the development of the disease, such as antibiotic use and diet.

Symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Symptoms will vary depending on the severity and location of the inflammation. Common signs include diarrhea, abdominal pain, cramping, fatigue, blood in the stool, unintended weight loss and reduced appetite.

crohns disease
Crohn’s disease is a common type of inflammatory bowel disease.

Most people will also experience periods of active IBD followed by weeks of remission.

While the symptoms of IBS and irritable bowel syndrome sometimes overlap, the former can only be diagnosed with confirmed inflammation in the bowels.

Brooke Carter
Brooke Carter
Freelance writer who loves dogs and anything related to Japanese culture.
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