The results are reported in the Nov. 9, 2002 issue of The Lancet by investigators at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
Crohn's disease is a chronic, lifelong condition, which affects about half a million people in the United States, according to co-principal investigator Brian K. Dieckgraefe, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology at the School of Medicine and staff physician at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.
"It usually begins between the ages of 20 and 30, and a typical patient deals with diarrhea, abdominal pain, infections and very serious problems that require surgery," Dieckgraefe says. "It's just a terrible situation."
Until now, the disease has been thought to result from an overactive immune system, and therapies have attempted to suppress, rather than enhance, the immune response. Therapies that suppress immunity improve symptoms in many Crohn's disease patients, but researchers are looking for alternative treatments to help those who don't respond. Most of that work, however, involves finding pathways to suppress immunity.
"At first blush, the idea of priming the immune system in patients with Crohn's disease sounds sort of like throwing oil on a fire," says co-principal investigator Joshua R. Korzenik, M.D., assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology and staff physician at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. "You might compare it to proposing a high cholesterol diet to treat heart disease."
But the team's research the past few years suggests that Crohn's patients may benefit from this alternative treatment approach. Korzenik and Dieckgraefe found that several genetic disorders characterize
Contact: Jim Dryden
Washington University School of Medicine