Inflammatory bowel disease: Possible cause discovered

Inflammatory bowel disease: Possible cause discovered

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Excessively permeable blood vessels in IBD

Around 400,000 people in Germany suffer from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The most common types include Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Despite the frequency of the diseases, their causes are still not sufficiently understood. A German research team has now discovered an important mechanism that plays an important role in the development of such diseases.

Researchers at the University Hospital in Erlangen report for the first time on dysfunctions in the blood vessels that are associated with the development of IBDs. The team discovered that the blood vessels of patients with inflammatory bowel disease are particularly permeable. Since inflammatory processes play a central role in IBD and the inflammatory cells reach the intestine via the blood vessels, the researchers attach great importance to the excessively permeable blood vessels in the development of the diseases. The results were recently presented in the journal "Clinical Investigation".

What do you know about the causes of IBD?

Earlier studies have shown that inflammatory processes in the intestine cause the numerous conditions in IBD. The cover and gland tissue in the intestine (epithelium) and increased inflammation cells in the intestine seem to be the focus of the disease. The Erlangen research team now tracked how the inflammatory cells got into the intestine and came across blood vessels that are excessively permeable.

Is a protein responsible for IBD?

In further analyzes, the researchers identified the permeable cells as a malfunction, which leads to a disrupted interaction between endothelial cells. Endothelial cells form the outer layer of blood vessels and are responsible for maintaining vascular impermeability. During the experiments, the team was also able to determine the cause of this malfunction. A cytokine called interferon-γ appears to be responsible for the excessive permeability. Cytokines are special proteins that regulate the growth and development of cells. In patients with inflammatory bowel diseases, the researchers were able to demonstrate an increased concentration of interferon-γ in the intestinal tissue.

A new approach to treatment

In the animal model, the research team then tried to contain the disease by trying to inhibit interferon-γ. They used the drug Imatinib (Glivec®), which is currently mainly used to treat cancer and limits the permeability of blood vessels. The treatment approach was successful in animals: the progression of the disease was clearly suppressed.

Professor Michael Stürzl from the study team is extremely satisfied with the new findings: "Of course we very much hope that our results will benefit patients with inflammatory bowel diseases in the long term," he reports. This is supported by the fact that the drugs successfully used in the animal model are already approved for clinical use in humans. (vb)

For more information on IBD, read the article: Chronic Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek


  • Michael Stürzl, Victoria Langer, Eugenia Vivi, u.a .: IFN-γ drives inflammatory bowel disease pathogenesis through VE-cadherin – directed vascular barrier disruption Victoria Langer, 1 Eugenia Vivi, Journal of Clinical Investigation, 2019,

Video: Inflammatory Bowel Disease - Crohns and Ulcerative Colitits (August 2022).