Researchers find one potential driver of childhood IBD

New research suggests small proteins called IL-36 cytokines may be a critical target for treating childhood inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

There are about 396 cases of IBD for every 100,000 persons annually. It is characterized by severe abdominal pain, recurring diarrhea, weight loss, and fatigue. The cause of IBD remains unknown. However, it is known from previous work that IL-36 cytokines activate in inflamed intestines of children with newly diagnosed IBD.

The current study looks into the mechanism of action behind IL-36’s inflammatory effects on tissue. Specifically, they found that childhood IBD involved increases in IL-36α but not IL-36β or IL-36γ. Additionally, T cells mediate IL-36 responses in an inflamed gut. The build-up of IL-36R cytokines on CD4+ T cells worsened inflammation and further aggravated the gut. Therefore, the researchers suggest IL-36R instructs proinflammatory CD4+ T cells to accumulate and drive inflammation in children.

“These results shed new light on how a potential new therapeutic target can promote the early pathogenesis of IBD. Gaining a deeper understanding of how IBD develops during its earliest stages, in childhood and adolescence, is critically important in efforts to design new and improved treatment options for these patients as they transition to adulthood,” says Patrick Walsh, Associate Professor in Paediatric Immunology, Department Of Clinical Medicine at Trinity’s School Of Medicine in a press release.

The study is published in the journal Mucosal Immunology.

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