Posted on Tuesday 6 November 2012
71 new genetic regions associated with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) have been found by a large international team, including researchers from the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at Guy’s and St Thomas’ and King’s College London.
The research, published in Nature, brings the total number of genes for IBD to 163, the largest known for any disorder. The study reveals both differences and similarities in the genetics of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, the two most common forms of IBD, which could affect the way patients are treated.
In one of the largest studies of its kind, the researchers studied over 75,000 blood samples from all over the world, including several thousand from Guy’s and St Thomas' hospitals.
IBD is a chronic condition where the immune system is faulty, leaving the gut damaged. This results in stomach pain, bloody diarrhoea and weight loss that requires lifelong medication, diet management and, in severe cases, surgery. Ulcerative colitis affects the colon and the rectum, while Crohn's disease can affect any part of the intestine.
Around 150,000 people in England have IBD, which is treated with anti-inflammatory drugs, but these can have side effects and may not be effective for all patients. The research highlights the contribution of an individual’s genes to the development of their disease.
“This wealth of genetic information tells us much about the underlying biology of the diseases,” says Professor Christopher Mathew, Head of Medical and Molecular Genetics at King’s College London, who was one of the UK leaders of the research.
“Genetic analysis may allow us to predict the type and severity of disease, and could lead to new, personalised treatments for patients with IBD. It may also help to identify people who are at increased risk of developing IBD, and who might benefit from screening for early signs of these disorders."