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The Role of Macrophages in the Treatment of Crohn’s Disease

Scientists at the University of Plymouth explored a novel mechanism for the treatment of Crohn’s disease. The research focused on a type of immune cells called macrophages.

Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory disease of the bowel, causing abdominal cramps, loose stools, weight loss, and increased risk of colorectal cancer. There is no cure for this condition. Macrophages are the defense cells of the body. They patrol and attack harmful pathogens that invade the body. In autoimmune conditions, like Crohn’s disease, the body’s own defense mechanism turns against the normal tissues. Based on the fact that exposure to a bacterial toxin inside the body can decrease the subsequent defense reaction of macrophages, scientists at the University of Plymouth came up with a study targeting macrophages in Crohn’s disease. It was published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Two subtypes of macrophages were selected and cultured. M1 subset of macrophages was pro-inflammatory, while M2 macrophages were anti-inflammatory. They were stimulated with the endotoxin of gut bacteria, E.coli. The various inflammatory mediators were then analyzed. They found that the pro-inflammatory molecule, TNFα was suppressed, and there was an increase in negative regulators like IRAK-M in M2 macrophages and Tollip in M1 macrophages. Modification of these regulators is likely to influence the inflammatory response of macrophages.

Dr. Andrew Foey, one of the researchers states that “This small step in the understanding of differential signalling of macrophage type may go hand-in-hand with understanding the relapsing/remitting presentation of Crohn’s Disease,” he said. “It is suggestive of future research endeavours in targeting macrophage responses in the treatment of inflammatory diseases – and it’s a really positive step.”

The study provides new insight into the treatment for Crohn’s disease. Further research and development would help provide relief to many people suffering from this chronic, distressing disease.

Written by Dr. Radhika Baitari, MS


Al-Shaghdali, K., Durante, B., Hayward, C., Beal, J. and Foey, A. (2019). Macrophage subsets exhibit distinct E. coli-LPS tolerisable cytokines associated with the negative regulators, IRAK-M and Tollip. PLOS ONE, 14(5), p.e0214681.

EurekAlert!. (2019). Research highlights possible targets to help tackle Crohn’s disease. [online] Available at: [Accessed 20 Jun. 2019].



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