In Crohn's disease (regional enteritis), the gastrointestinal tract becomes inflamed. This could be anywhere from the mouth to the anus, leading to some very unpleasant symptoms, including bloody diarrhea, sickness and weight loss. It's two to four times more common in Ashkenazi Jews than in the rest of the European population, and U.S. and Israeli researchers have found genetic markers that are specific to this group.
There have been around 71 genetic modifications previously linked with Crohn's disease, which is caused by a complex interaction between the patient's intestinal microbiota and his or her immune system. Researchers looked at genetic data from nearly 2,000 Ashkenazi Jews with Crohn's disease, and around 4,500 healthy people from the same population, and found a number of known genetic markers as well as 5 completely new ones that were linked with Crohn's disease in this group of people. The research was published in PLoS Genetics.
"This is the largest study to date, and the first to discover the unique risk factors of Crohn's disease in the Ashkenazi Jewish population," said Inga Peter, Ph.D., associate professor of genetics and genomic sciences at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. "The prevalence of this disease is so much higher in Ashkenazi Jews, and the involvement of genetic variants predominant in this population might help understand why that is."
Crohn's disease increases the risk of bowel cancer. By pointing the way to new treatments, knowing more about the genetic biomarkers of this disease could help with treatment--and potentially cut long-term outcomes such as cancer--in both this specific group and in the general population.