MONDAY, Dec. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Carbon monoxide helps soothe a common form of inflammatory bowel disease called ulcerative colitis by shutting down the inflammation that causes the condition, a new study found.
University of Pittsburgh researchers used low concentrations of inhaled carbon monoxide to ease inflammatory bowel disease symptoms in mice. The carbon monoxide inhibited production of a protein called interleukin-12 (IL-12), which is normally produced during infection and helps activate immune cells that attack invading pathogens.
However, chronic production of IL-12 in the gut results in inflammation that causes ulcerative colitis. Inhibiting production of IL-12 prevents such inflammation, the researchers said.
The researchers are now trying to learn exactly how carbon monoxide inhibits IL-12.
Carbon monoxide is most widely known as a toxic air pollutant, but the body does produce small amounts of it as a normal byproduct of metabolism. High does of carbon monoxide are deadly because it robs the body of oxygen. However, recent studies have shown that low concentrations of carbon monoxide act as an anti-inflammatory, the researchers said.
The study findings appear in the Dec. 19 issue of the Journal of Experimental Medicine.