Crohn’s disease is a disorder that causes inflammation of the digestive tract which combined with colitis afflicts 170 000 Canadians. Dr. Rioux led a team of 25 Canadian and American researchers to identify three new genes, which would predispose us to the condition. The results are published in the May edition of Nature Genetics.
Dr. John Rioux holds the Canada Research Chair in Genetics and Genomic Medicine of Inflammation. He is also the Director of the Laboratoire de génétique et médecine génomique en inflammation at the Montreal Heart Institute, and an associate researcher at Harvard’s MIT.
The three genes in question are PHOX2B, NCF4, and ATG16L1. The identification of these genes required the analysis of 300 000 genetic variants. Previous research by Dr. Rioux also identified gene IL23R.
According to Rioux, these discoveries are putting forth several biological mechanisms previously ignored. “For instance, the identification of the PHOX2B gene could imply that neuroendocrine cells of the intestinal epithelium play a role in this disease. NCF4 indicates that protein production intervenes in the immune response, while ATG16L1 sheds light on the person’s reaction to infections.”
The hope is that these discoveries will not only lead to a better understanding of the disease, but also to the identification of new targets for better pharmacotherapies. In addition, tobacco use could increase the risk of developing Crohn’s disease.