Possible Cause of Inflammatory Bowel Disease Uncovered

stomachacheAn Australian scientist has discovered a possible cause of inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.  A researcher at the University of Adelaide found that people suffering from inflammatory bowel disease have a lower number of regulatory cells that control the immune system and more “attack” cells that cause inflammation.

The research, which was published in the Journal of Clinical Immunology, could be applied to create a diagnostic blood test that may reduce the need for colonoscopies. Regulatory cells may also play a role in diseases such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. Scientists could one day develop a treatment to restore the balance of regulatory cells in the patient’s system.

Inflammatory bowel disease affects more than 700,000 people in the U.S., U.K., and Australia.  This group of gastrointestinal conditions include Crohn’s disease, which causes inflammation of the lining of the digestive tract; and ulcerative colitis, or chronic inflammation of the colon and rectum.  Symptoms include debilitating abdominal pain and diarrhea. Inflammatory bowel disease can lead to life-threatening complications such as bowel obstructions and perforated colon.

AGI Therapeutics is developing a novel anti-inflammatory for ulcerative colitis.  Axcan Pharma markets Canasa to reduce the symptoms of rectal inflammation caused by ulcerative colitis. Colazal, developed by Salix Pharmaceuticals, is designed to treat mild to moderate forms of the disease. The company also markets the maintenance drug Apriso for patients whose ulcerative colitis has gone into remission.

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