Exciting gene discovery expected to help children with Crohn's disease

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Epigenetic changes identified that predict Crohn's disease in children

New and exciting research has identified epigenetic changes that occur among children with Crohn's disease. How genes interact with the environment has been the subject of study for a variety of diseases. Now scientists have identified two regions in particular where genes change to lead to Crohn's disease that is expected to help diagnosis and treatment.

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Crohn's disease is a debilitating and painful condition that often strikes children and young adults. Researchers have made an exciting discovery about epigenetic changes that lead to the disease. The result of the finding will mean better treatment of Crohn's disease.

DNA changes could accurately predict Crohn's disease

Research conducted by Professor Jack Satsangi of University of Edinburgh and colleagues and published in the journal Inflammatory Bowel Diseases uncovered specific epigenetic changes in children with Crohn's disease that point to how genes and the environment interact in the development of the inflammatory bowel disorder.

The finding also has implications for other diseases including rheumatoid arthritis, type 2 diabetes and obesity that are thought to be the result of epigenetic changes or how genes become altered in response to our environment.

If you want to understand more about how our genes are expressed and how they can change to lead to disease, read "What are MicroRNAs".

Newer research has also found how MicroRNAs that direct how genes behave can aid in healing Crohn's disease.

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According to the study authors, there is "compelling evidence" that genes that control immune and cellular function contribute to Crohn's disease in children that could be used to help diagnose the condition.

Blood test can help with Crohn's therapy in the near future

The study authors write: "There are exciting and immediate implications for early clinical translation; the discovery of easily accessible biomarkers in peripheral blood to predict disease susceptibility, progression or response to therapy and the potential for new therapeutic targets."

More studies are needed to understand the epigenetic changes. Two areas of genes seemed to be particularly important that is also implicated in cases of colorectal cancer and is the same area responsible for the development of T-cells that are important for immunity - the HLA region and MIR21 that are also implicated for type 1 diabetes.

The scientists found 19 different gene pathways that showed a strong link to risk of developing Crohn's disease that they say could lead to better diagnosis and treatment in the near future.

Thanks to newer technology researchers can now explore what happens to our genes to change them to lead to complex diseases such as Crohn's and ulcerative colitis - both of which are inflammatory bowel disorders affecting 1.4 million US children and adults. Understanding how genes interact with the environment will help treatment of Crohn's in children and also help identify who is most likely to develop the inflammatory bowel disorder. Blood tests could now be developed to evaluate the effectiveness of treatment for IBD.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

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