Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis Show Unique Cytokine Profiles

By Zoltan Nemeth, MD, and Dorian Bogdanovski, MPH

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Ulcerative Colitis (UC) and Crohn’s Disease (CD) are the two main types of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). It is often possible to discern between these two diseases through the observations of signs and symptoms, blood or stool sample assessment and biopsy. Unfortunately, these methods may not always differentiate between the subtypes of IBD.

A recent study from Morristown Medical Center  examined the expression of cytokines in samples of bowel tissue removed surgically from patients with IBD. The researchers found distinct and unique patterns of expression in either disease—both in actively inflamed and non-diseased portions of bowel tissue—when compared to each other and to tissue collected from patients without IBD.


In both CD and UC, interleukin (IL)-12 (p40), IL-18, IL-21 and IL-27 transcript levels were higher than in Control. The highest levels of cytokines were found in the diseased areas of CD and UC with only one exception; IL-12 (p40) in CD was more up-regulated in the non-diseased areas compared to diseased CD and Control specimens. CD samples but not UC specimens showed significant IL-17, IL-23, and IL-32 mRNA expression indicating a trend toward Th17 responses. In UC, however, IL-5, IL-13, IL-15 and IL-33 mRNA levels were significantly increased when compared to both CD and Control.

Figure: In both CD and UC, interleukin (IL)-12 (p40), IL-18, IL-21 and IL-27
transcript levels were higher than in the Control (C) group

Further Research

At present, the researcher team in Morristown  is designing a prospective study to test biopsy samples of patients with suspected IBD to determine the sensitivity and specificity of such a method. This study also opens the door to molecular, cellular, and pharmaceutical research and development. Now that we know these distinct cytokine profiles, careful studies of their action and effects might reveal new targets for focused and personalized treatment options for patients with IBD.

The full article can be read at Cureus.