Published online Dec 14, 2009. doi: 10.3748/wjg.15.5784
Revised: November 3, 2009
Accepted: November 10, 2009
Published online: December 14, 2009
The etiopathology of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) remains elusive. Accumulating evidence suggests that the abnormality of innate and adaptive immunity responses plays an important role in intestinal inflammation. IBD including Crohn’s disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic inflammatory disease of the gastrointestinal tract, which is implicated in an inappropriate and overactive mucosal immune response to luminal flora. Traditionally, CD is regarded as a Th1-mediated inflammatory disorder while UC is regarded as a Th2-like disease. Recently, Th17 cells were identified as a new subset of T helper cells unrelated to Th1 or Th2 cells, and several cytokines [e.g. interleukin (IL)-21, IL-23] are involved in regulating their activation and differentiation. They not only play an important role in host defense against extracellular pathogens, but are also associated with the development of autoimmunity and inflammatory response such as IBD. The identification of Th17 cells helps us to explain some of the anomalies seen in the Th1/Th2 axis and has broadened our understanding of the immunopathological effects of Th17 cells in the development of IBD.