Inflammatory bowel diseases are characterized by chronic relapsing inflammations of the gastrointestinal tract that are not caused by specific pathogens. Although the precise aetiology of inflammatory bowel diseases remains unclear, considerable progress has been made in the identification of critical cytokine mediated signalling pathways in the inflammatory process. It could be shown that these pathways induce augmented intestinal T cell resistance against apoptosis, which is a pivotal process in disease pathogenesis. These findings have facilitated our understanding of the disease and the development of new therapies, which aim at restoring mucosal T cell homeostasis based on a sound pathophysiological rationale. This development is best exemplified by the emergence of anti-tumour necrosis factor antibody therapy. The advent of other biological therapies, such as the anti-IL-6R antibody, offers hope for new strategies that may result in more effective and less toxic therapy.

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