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Curr Mol Med. 2008 Jun;8(4):258-73.

Neuropharmacology of stress-induced mucosal inflammation: implications for inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome.

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Digestive Diseases Research Unit, Department of Gastroenterology, Institut de Recerça Vall d'Hebron & Hospital Universitari Vall d'Hebron, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Department of Medicine, Barcelona, Spain.


Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and the irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are common causes of medical consultation and the most frequent diagnosis raised by gastroenterologists. Recent years have witnessed considerable advances in the understanding of the mechanisms involved in the initiation and perpetuation of these chronic and recurrent disorders. However, particularly in IBS, the success of the "bench-to the-bedside medicine" has been rather poor since many affected individuals still experience significant bother and negative impact in their quality of life despite growing investigative and sanitary costs. Besides IBD, several subgroups of IBS patients have been lately identified as carriers of mucosal inflammation throughout the gut. Although multifactorial, life stress has emerged as a critical factor for mucosal inflammation in these conditions. Due to the clinical and biological heterogeneity of IBD and IBS patients, the simplistic hypothesis of a stress-related stepwise progression of gut inflammation may be useful to gain operative knowledge and render better and specific diagnostic markers and improved therapeutic options. Therefore, in this review, we have consciously admitted the possibility of linear evolution of gut inflammation, from the mucosa to the serosa, and assumed a bidirectional progression, from physiological to pathological inflammation. Thus, we have outlined the stress neurocircuitry implicated in the regulation of gut inflammation and the participating pathways (mechanisms, receptors and molecules) and provided with both, evidence and a theoretical-based approach to present and potential drugs that, alone or in combination, might help to prevent, control or regress the stress-induced inflammatory process at different stages.

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