Imaging technology maps cells tied to inflammatory bowel disease

New “maps” of hundreds of thousands of cells related to inflammatory bowel disease shed greater light on their effects on intestinal tissues through a newly utilized imaging technique called “imaging mass cytometry.” The novel findings by researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine provide a possible path to better targeted and more personalized approaches to treating inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The researchers’ work is published in Gastroenterology.

Microscopic multicolor image of a colon.
Multicolor image of a colon from a patient with ulcerative colitis stained by imaging mass cytometry. (Image: Courtesy of Ayano Kondo from the Kaestner Lab)

Estimated to affect nearly seven million people worldwide, IBD is a catch-all term that covers multiple disorders involving inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. Most cases are of Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, which have different clinical presentations and tend to affect the gut in different patterns. However, there is enough symptom overlap that the two diseases can be challenging to distinguish.

Treatments that target specific immune signaling pathways are available for both disorders, but they don’t work to the same degree for every patient, and can have adverse side effects, including an increased risk of infections.

“To develop better treatments and better ways of diagnosing IBD we need to gain a more complete understanding of this set of disorders at the cellular and molecular level, and this study demonstrates a powerful new way of doing that,” says the study’s senior author, Klaus Kaestner, a professor of genetics.

This story is by Frank Otto. Read more at Penn Medicine News.