New Intestinal Tissue “Atlas” Provides In-Depth Info About Ulcerative Colitis

According to a story from the Broad Institute, there are still many mysteries to uncover related to inflammatory bowel diseases, which includes the rare form ulcerative colitis. The understanding of the disease mechanism is hazy at best, and some patients do not respond to treatments that others do very well on. Symptom flares often come up at random and can be difficult to predict. However, a team of researchers from the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard have conducted in-depth analysis comparing health intestinal tissue and that of ulcerative colitis patients to develop an “atlas” of the tissue that provides exquisite detail down to the cellular level.

About Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative colitis is a long term condition which is characterized by the appearance of ulcers and generalized inflammation of the rectum and colon. The exact cause of the condition remains a mystery, but there do appear to be some risk factors, such as family history, diet, and exposure to the medication isotrentinoin. Smoking appears to have a slightly protective effect. Symptoms can include anemia, bloody diarrhea, weight loss, fever, and abdominal pain. They tend to appear in as relapsing-remitting pattern. In severe disease there is a risk of serious complications, such as megacolon or inflammatory disease in other parts of the body. The risk of colon cancer is also elevated. Treatment may include dietary changes, medication to control inflammation, and, when complications appear, surgery. To learn more about ulcerative colitis, click here.

About The Study

The team looked at over 300,000 individual cells from a sample of 30 patients and healthy controls. The analysis provided critical new information related to how cells interact with one another as well as changes in the makeup of the tissue. It also potentially identified complete subsets of cells that could play a role in treatment resistance, a problem that nearly a third of patients face. In addition, the team identified certain genes that could be risk factors for the disease.

The tissue atlas will allow ulcerative colitis researchers to examine the mechanisms behind the illness with an all new level of precision and detail. Some of the differences found in the intestines of patients were the increased presence of certain fibroblast cells linked to inflammation and the appearance of IL-17 and CD8 expressing T-cells. The scientists also detected the presence of cells called microfolds, a type of epithelial cell, which is typically only present in the small intestine exclusively.

Check out the original study here.


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