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Simple blood could tell who will develop Crohn's disease and could mean new treatments

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Epigenetic changes in patients with Crohn's disease found with a simple blood test

DNA changes found in the blood of children with Crohn's disease could mean a way to determine who will develop the inflammatory bowel disorder (IBD). Scotland scientists also say epigenetic changes could mean a better understanding of Crohn's disease and new treatments.


Researchers have found DNA changes associated with Crohn's disease that could lead to new treatments. A simple blood test could determine who would develop the disease.

Epigenetic changes determine who will develop Crohn's disease

Professor Jack Satsangi, from the Centre for Genomic and Experimental Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, said in a press release Our study gives the strongest evidence yet that epigenetic changes are involved in Crohn's disease. "The findings provide a potential mechanism whereby diet or other environmental factors may modify genetic material to cause Crohn's disease."

Alterations in gut microbes have been found in patients with Crohn's disease. But what triggers the bowel disorder has remained a mystery.

Some speculation points to early exposure to antibiotics while other research suggests MAPs bacteria might change gut microbes, leading to Crohn's. Mouse studies show Mycobacterium avium ssp. paratuberculosis (MAP) causes inflammation and it's role in Crohn's disease is under investigation also.

Genes also play a role, but not everyone with the genes will develop Crohn's. Epigenetic changes that occur have been implicated in a variety of diseases.

The new finding provides the strongest evidence to date that epigenetic changes brought about by environment and diet trigger Crohn's disease in the presence of Crohn's genes.

DNA sampling could help eliminate multiple tests for Crohn's

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The researchers say a DNA blood test wouldn't necessarily diagnose Crohn's disease. But it would help identify who is at risk and potentially reduce the number of people who needs further testing.

Chemical changes in genes that could be detected with a blood test could also lead to new treatments. It could also help researchers identify how genes work and how Crohn's disease develops.

Researchers recently identified two gene areas in particular that are altered in children with the disease.

DNA blood tests might also help with monitoring response to Crohn's disease treatment.

Another recent finding from US researchers identified a protein that can "fix" Crohn's disease gene mutations.

The researchers not that Crohn's disease incidence has increased 500 percent in the past 50 years in Scotland.

There is no known way to prevent Crohn's disease. Treatment involves trying to manage symptoms of the Inflammatory bowel disorder that often lead to side effects and for many patients, multiple surgeries.

The study, published in the journal Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, uncovers how environmental factors vary between people to trigger Crohn's disease. Understanding how genes work could lead to new treatments for the condition that is debilitating and poorly understood.

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