A team of researchers from the University of Chicago, the University of Michigan and others has identified the first genetic abnormality that increases susceptibility to Crohn's disease.
In the May 31, 2001, issue of Nature, the researchers report that mutations of Nod2, a gene involved in the immune system's initial response to bacterial infection, significantly increase the risk of Crohn's disease. A companion paper by French scientists in the same journal confirms the link in a different group of patients.
"Finding this crucial genetic clue gives us our first real insight into the complex causes and mechanisms of Crohn's disease," said study co-author Judy Cho, M.D., assistant professor of medicine and a researcher in the Martin Boyer Laboratories at the University of Chicago. "We have long suspected that both genetics and the environment played a role. This finally allows us to begin to understand how they work together to cause this disease."
"It has been known for a long time that there is an important link between bacteria residing in the gut and genetic factors for the development of Crohn's disease," said co-author Gabriel Nuez, M. D., associate professor of pathology at the University of Michigan and a researcher at the U-M's Comprehensive Cancer Center. "The discovery of Nod2 may explain this missing-link connection between genes and bacteria."
"This discovery is a shining example of how genetic research will help expand our understanding of complex diseases such as Crohn's," says Stephen James, M.D., deputy director, Division of Digestive Diseases and Nutrition, NIDDK. "It's a semina
Contact: John Easton
University of Chicago Medical Center