According to a new discovery from Weill Cornell Medicine researchers, a growth factor protein produced by immune cells in the intestine may protect against the effects of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The research published in Nature Immunology could lead to a better understanding of IBD and new strategies to treat this disease.
In this study, researchers found that the growth factor HB-EGF is a result of gut inflammation caused by a set of immune regulating cells called ILC3s. These immune cells are found in many organs, including the intestines. However, their numbers are known to be depleted in the inflamed intestines of IBD patients.
Using a relatively advanced technique called single cell RNA sequencing, researchers were able to show in experiments with mice that this growth factor can powerfully counter the harmful effects of intestinal inflammation. The ILC3s can protect gut lining cells when they would otherwise die and cause a breach in the intestinal barrier.
Senior author of the study Dr. Gregory Sonnenberg said, “We’ve discovered a new cellular pathway that is essential to protect against gut inflammation. This discovery could lead to a better understanding of IBD pathogenesis and new strategies to treat this disease.”
These findings help to show a critical mechanism that the gut typically uses to protect itself from harmful inflammation and suggests that the loss of ILC3s is at least one reason this mechanism fails in inflammatory bowel disease patients. This loss in ILC3s in the IBD gut can pose a serious challenge to the development of therapeutic solutions that depend on these cells.
Inflammatory bowel disease is included in a disease category that includes ulcerated colitis and Crohn’s disease. It features chronic gut inflammation and many potential long-term effects such as arthritis and colorectal cancer.
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