A new study shows at least one of the five new gene regions associated with
childhood IBD is directly involved in the biological process that causes the
painful inflammation of the digestive tract associated with the disease.
"This is an evolving story of discovering what genes tell us about the
disease," says researcher Robert N. Baldassano, MD, director of the Center for
Pediatric Inflammatory Bowel Disease at Children's Hospital, in a news release.
"Pinpointing how specific genes act on biological pathways provides a basis for
ultimately personalizing medicine to an individual's genetic profile."
Inflammatory bowel disease affects about 2 million children and adults in
the U.S. It is characterized by inflammation of the gastrointestinal lining,
which causes damage and ulcerations. IBD includes Crohn's disease, which affects any part of the
gastrointestinal (GI) tract, and ulcerative colitis, which is limited to the large
Researchers say childhood IBD tends to be more severe than the adult form of
the disease, but until now most studies have only looked at the genes behind
The study, published in Nature Genetics, is the largest genetic
analysis of childhood-onset inflammatory bowel disease. Researchers looked at
DNA from more than 3,400 children and adolescents with IBD and compared their
genetic structure to that of nearly 12,000 healthy children.
The results identified five genetic regions that increased the risk of
childhood inflammatory bowel disease on chromosomes 16, 22, 10, 2, and 19.
Researchers say the most significant finding was in regard to the genetic
region on chromosome 16, which is near the gene (IL27) that carries the code
for a signaling protein involved in intestinal inflammation.
If further studies confirm this genetic link to childhood inflammatory bowel
disease, drugs may be developed to target the gene's action and
block its disease-causing actions.