Leaks blamed for colitis16th November 2009
Researchers have carried out a study of 12,700 people in order to suggest that the cause of ulcerative colitis could be down to genetic faults.
The condition can lead to fever, diarrhoea, pain and weight loss. It affects around one in 1,000 people.
The study, by researchers from the UK IBD Genetics Consortium and the Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium, looked at the genomes of 4,700 people with ulcerative colitis and compared them with those of 8,000 people who did not have the condition.
The research found that three particular areas of the genomes upped the danger of colitis.
Four specific genes, CDH1, CDH3, HNF4A and LAMB1, were singled out. These genes are responsible for keeping the lining of the intestine (the epithelium) functioning.
If the genes were faulty, it meant that bacteria could "leak" through the lining of the gut into the intestine wall. This triggered inflammation as part of an immune response.
Researcher Dr Miles Parkes, Consultant Gastroenterologist at Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, said: "We have long suspected that genetic defects in the epithelial barrier are important in ulcerative colitis."
"This large scale genetic study provides the first robust genetic evidence that this is the case."
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