Researchers have now identified IL-23, a cytokine used by the immune system to protect against diseases, as a main contributor to the inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

The new finding, published in the April 2011 issue of Journal of Leukocyte Biology, raises hopes of developing new treatments that stop or decrease the harmful effects of IL-23 and find a remedy for illnesses like Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

By targeting IL-23 and related proteins, the research aims to fully understand why people develop IBD. This will definitely bring a cheer among millions of people suffering with IBD and other inflammatory illnesses.

IL-23R expression was noticed in a variety of cells from circumferential blood and intestinal mucosa of patients suffering from IBD, suggesting that it plays a crucial function in the initiation of proinflammatory cytokine secretion, including various forms of immune cells like the most-recently discovered Th17 helper T cells that have a large role to play in inflammatory diseases.

Zhanju Liu, a researcher from the Department of Gastroenterology at The Shanghai Tenth People’s Hospital at Tongji University in China, and his team analysed IL-23 expression in intestinal mucosa by adopting lab techniques that both amplify and also quantify a specific DNA molecule. They hope to provide a new approach in the management of IBD.

Understanding IBD

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is not a single disease. It is one of the most common disorders controlled by gastroenterologists. The term IBD is largely used to illustrate two diseases – Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative colitis (UC) that are both chronic diseases involving inflammation of the gastrointestinal region.

The primary difference between the two diseases is the area of the gut and type of the inflammatory changes. In Crohn’s disease, the inflammation can happen anywhere in the gastrointestinal tract, from the mouth to the anus, although it occurs mostly in the small intestine. Whereas in Ulcerative colitis, inflammation is restricted to only the colon and rectum.

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis could result in liver problems, arthritis and other skin manifestations.


IBD is generally diagnosed amongst teenagers, although it can become visible at any age. In the UK alone about 160,000 people have Ulcerative colitis and 80,000 people suffer from Crohn’s disease.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as 1.4 million people in the United States may have inflammatory bowel disease.

1) The National Association for Colitis and Crohn’s Disease (NACC)
2) National Health Service (NHS)