The researchers compared the immune response of Crohn's sufferers and controls (healthy individuals) to minor injuries (skin abrasions). The experimental group members were found to produce low levels of neutrophils (white blood cells that fight infection) and other chemicals involved in combating inflammation.
In order to confirm the findings, the researchers further determined their ability to fight against a harmless form of bacteria, taken from under the skin. The control group members were found to have an enhanced blood flow to the inflamed area while those with Crohn's disease had an insignificant increase in blood flow.
Surprisingly, Viagra, given for the treatment of erectile dysfunction / impotence has been found to result in increased blood flow among Crohn's sufferers. Following such a promising finding, we might soon have an alternative drug to treat this inflammatory bowel disorder.
It is hypothesized that Crohn's disease sufferers have weakened immune systems, incapable of destroying bacteria invading the intestinal wall. This allows bacterial growth and colonization, eventually paving way for secretion of inflammatory substances that trigger Crohn's symptoms.
The improvement in symptoms following treatment aimed at stimulation of white blood cells and the gene mutation associated with Crohn's disease further support the fact that the disease is a manifestation of a weak immune system.
With our improved understanding of the disease process, it might be possible to treatment the disease more effectively in the future.