Foiling Inflammatory Bowel Disease

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Science Translational Medicine  30 Oct 2013:
Vol. 5, Issue 209, pp. 209ec178
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3007773

Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs), which are chronic diseases of gut, are characterized by an excessive, uncontrolled intestinal inflammation. The increasing prevalence of IBD in developing countries has highlighted the critical role of environmental pollutants as a causative factor in the pathophysiology of IBD. Aluminum is the most abundant metal element in our environment. Years of observation suggest that exposure to aluminum has been associated with an uncharacteristic immune response for different diseases. However, the role of aluminum on intestinal inflammation or colitis has not been evaluated, and mechanisms involved in the detrimental effects of aluminum on intestinal inflammation are still not fully understood.

Pineton de Chambrun et al. set out to evaluate the effects of aluminum intoxication in mouse models of experimental colitis and tried to discern the potential proinflammatory role of aluminum in different models of chemically induced and chronic colitis in mice. Their results showed that administration of aluminum worsened intestinal inflammation in two different models of chemically induced, acute colitis—trinitrobenzene sulfonic acid (TNBS)– and dextran sodium sulfate (DSS)–induced colitis—and also in a model of chronic colitis—interleukin 10–deficient mice. Inflammatory cytokine expression was increased, and colitis duration was extended after aluminum administration, when compared with those of control mice. Moreover, aluminum compromised mucosal healing and increased intestinal permeability, leading to an increased bacterial load through the intestinal wall. Furthermore, in vitro aluminum induced granuloma formation and stimulated inflammatory cytokine expression.

Taken together, the numerous harmful effects of aluminum on intestinal inflammation suggest that aluminum exposure may be a risk factor of IBD, which will warrant further attention. People living in the developing and industrial countries are inevitably exposed to aluminium. Therefore, further epidemiological studies are required to clarify the mechanism in humans with the goal of providing a target to block this enhanced inflammation and treat IBD.

G. Pineton de Chambrun et al., Aluminum enhances inflammation and decreases mucosal healing in experimental colitis in mice. Mucosal. Immunol., published online 16 October 2013 (10.1038/mi.2013.78). [Full Text]

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