Breakthrough on causes of inflammatory bowel disease

December 16, 2009

New research by the University of Adelaide could help explain why some people are more prone to Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis and other autoimmune diseases.

A critical imbalance of the regulatory cells required to control the immune system has been revealed among people suffering inflammatory bowel disease.

In a paper published in the Journal of Clinical Immunology this month, Pathology researcher Dr Nicola Eastaff-Leung reveals that people suffering Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis have fewer numbers of regulatory cells and more "attack" cells that cause inflammation.

"All the food that we eat is foreign to our body," Dr Eastaff-Leung says. "In healthy people the immune system has a mechanism to tolerate these foods and not react. But some people do not have enough of these regulatory cells and their body overreacts and goes into attack mode. That is where the inflammation occurs," she says.

Dr Eastaff-Leung says the results of her recently completed PhD at the University of Adelaide could help provide a diagnostic tool for gastrointestinal diseases, reducing the need for colonoscopies in future.

"If we can establish that all people suffering Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis have an imbalance of these regulatory cells, we may be able to develop a blood test that confirms suspected cases of these diseases.

"The second, bigger challenge is to work out a treatment that can restore the balance of these cells and also to find out why this imbalance is happening in the first place."

Dr Eastaff-Leung, who has qualifications in both Pathology and Chinese medicine, says there is evidence to show that diet and lifestyle play a significant role in the development of gastrointestinal disease.

"Inflammatory bowel diseases and a lot of other autoimmune diseases are common in Western cultures but are rarely found in the developing or Third World countries.

"We need to look at our diet and also the obsession in Western countries with cleanliness and antibacterial disinfectants, which has gone overboard. Children need to be exposed to bacteria as they are developing in order to build their immune system naturally," Dr Eastaff-Leung says.

PhD supervisors Associate Professor Simon Barry, from the Discipline of Paediatrics at the University of Adelaide, and Dr Adrian Cummins from the Department of Gastroenterology at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, believe the ongoing study of regulatory immune cells could help pinpoint the causes of a range of diseases, including multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, Type 1 diabetes and even asthma.

"In all autoimmune diseases, the immune system accidentally starts to attack tissues and organs that it should normally leave alone. The regulatory cells are obviously not doing their job and we need to understand why," Dr Barry says.

Dr Eastaff-Leung will spend the next 12 months working with Assoc. Prof. Barry developing a novel biomarker for these regulatory immune cells in collaboration with Professor Heddy Zola from the Cooperative Research Centre for Biomarker Translation.

"We are going to see if we can add a new layer of sophistication to this research," Assoc. Prof. Barry says. "If the new biomarker is a protein that plays an important functional role we can work on that to restore the balance in the immune system."

More than 700,000 individuals are living with inflammatory bowel disease in the US, UK and Australia.
-end-
Dr Eastaff-Leung's research was funded by The Queen Elizabeth Hospital Research Foundation and the Australian Crohn's and Colitis Association. Her other supervisor was Dr Angela Barbour from the University of Adelaide.

University of Adelaide

Related Diabetes Articles from Brightsurf:

New diabetes medication reduced heart event risk in those with diabetes and kidney disease
Sotagliflozin - a type of medication known as an SGLT2 inhibitor primarily prescribed for Type 2 diabetes - reduces the risk of adverse cardiovascular events for patients with diabetes and kidney disease.

Diabetes drug boosts survival in patients with type 2 diabetes and COVID-19 pneumonia
Sitagliptin, a drug to lower blood sugar in type 2 diabetes, also improves survival in diabetic patients hospitalized with COVID-19, suggests a multicenter observational study in Italy.

Making sense of diabetes
Throughout her 38-year nursing career, Laurel Despins has progressed from a bedside nurse to a clinical nurse specialist and has worked in medical, surgical and cardiac intensive care units.

Helping teens with type 1 diabetes improve diabetes control with MyDiaText
Adolescence is a difficult period of development, made more complex for those with Type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM).

Diabetes-in-a-dish model uncovers new insights into the cause of type 2 diabetes
Researchers have developed a novel 'disease-in-a-dish' model to study the basic molecular factors that lead to the development of type 2 diabetes, uncovering the potential existence of major signaling defects both inside and outside of the classical insulin signaling cascade, and providing new perspectives on the mechanisms behind insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes and possibly opportunities for the development of novel therapeutics for the disease.

Tele-diabetes to manage new-onset diabetes during COVID-19 pandemic
Two new case studies highlight the use of tele-diabetes to manage new-onset type 1 diabetes in an adult and an infant during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Genetic profile may predict type 2 diabetes risk among women with gestational diabetes
Women who go on to develop type 2 diabetes after having gestational, or pregnancy-related, diabetes are more likely to have particular genetic profiles, suggests an analysis by researchers at the National Institutes of Health and other institutions.

Maternal gestational diabetes linked to diabetes in children
Children and youth of mothers who had gestational diabetes during pregnancy are at increased risk of diabetes themselves, according to new research published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

Two diabetes medications don't slow progression of type 2 diabetes in youth
In youth with impaired glucose tolerance or recent-onset type 2 diabetes, neither initial treatment with long-acting insulin followed by the drug metformin, nor metformin alone preserved the body's ability to make insulin, according to results published online June 25 in Diabetes Care.

People with diabetes visit the dentist less frequently despite link between diabetes, oral health
Adults with diabetes are less likely to visit the dentist than people with prediabetes or without diabetes, finds a new study led by researchers at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing and East Carolina University's Brody School of Medicine.

Read More: Diabetes News and Diabetes Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.