• Can Serotonin Levels Be Used to Diagnose Crohn's Disease? - Chromatography Explores

HPLC, UHPLC

Can Serotonin Levels Be Used to Diagnose Crohn's Disease? - Chromatography Explores

Oct 01 2020

Inflammatory Bowel Disease is the term used for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. It is estimated that 300,000 people in the UK suffer from Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) – approximately 1 in 200 people in the UK. The causes of the disease are not well understood, neither is the cure with current medical practice is to manage the symptoms of the condition with surgery sometimes required.

Diagnosing the condition can be difficult and sometimes may involve invasive procedures including endoscopy. But could serotonin levels offer a simpler and less invasive method of diagnosis? A recent paper published in the journal Inflammatory Bowel Diseases reports on work carried out by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago into whether levels of the neurotransmitter are elevated in patients with IBD. And chromatography was used to assess serotonin levels in serum.

Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis – inflammation of the gut

The two main forms of IBD are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Both are long-term conditions that cause inflammation of the gut. But although both conditions are described as chronic, suffers may have long periods of good health where the condition is in remission alongside flare-ups where the symptoms are more active.

Crohn’s disease is a condition that causes inflammation throughout the digestive system or gastrointestinal tract. The disease causes ulcers and inflammation to form, and Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the gut including the small intestine, colon, and bowel. Inflammation is usually the body’s reaction to injury or irritation, but in Crohn’s disease doctors do not know the cause of the inflammation.

Ulcerative colitis is due to inflammation and ulcers in the lining of the colon and rectum. It can also cause ulcers in the bowels that can bleed and ooze mucus. Both conditions affect the body’s ability to digest food, liquid, and nutrients resulting in frequent bowel movements and diarrhoea. Both conditions can also cause abdominal pain, anaemia, and tiredness. There is also a significant impact on a suffers quality of life when the conditions flare-up.

Chromatography and neurotransmitters

Doctors currently use blood and stool checks to look for signs of inflammation, if inflammation is confirmed then an endoscopy is used to look at the digestive system from the inside. Although not usually painful, an endoscopy can be uncomfortable, and a sedative may be required. X-rays and CT scans are also sometimes used when there is painful abdominal pain. But the researchers from Chicago used chromatography to analyse the serotonin levels in patients with IBD. The use of HPLC is discussed in the article, Troubleshooting Retention Time Changes in (U)HPLC – a Systematic Approach.

The researchers found that serotonin levels were elevated in patients suffering from Crohn’s disease but not ulcerative colitis. The levels could also differentiate between different disease categories in Crohn’s disease patients. They conclude the work emphasizing the potential suitability of serum 5-HT (serotonin) as an auxiliary measure in diagnosing active CD.


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