January 15, 2015
1 min read

Global study seeks causes of Crohn's disease

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Researchers from the University of Edinburgh’s Center for Genomic and Experimental Medicine are leading the UK’s contribution to a global study in search of the causes of Crohn’s disease, according to a press release.

“Over the last 10 years we have made significant progress in understanding the genetic underpinnings of Crohn’s disease,” Charlie Lees, MD, a consultant gastroenterologist and honorary senior lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, said in the release. “However this only accounts for about a third of why somebody gets the disease. We need to look at healthy people and follow them over time to truly understand which factors cause the condition and which are consequences of the inflammation in the gut that occurs as part of the disease.”

Charlie Lees

Helen Terry

Because the strongest risk factor for developing Crohn’s is having a first-degree relative with the disease, the Genetics, Environmental, Microbial (GEM) project led by Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto is focusing on the immediate family members of Crohn’s patients in order to better understand the genetic and environmental causes of the disease, the release said. University of Edinburgh researchers plan to recruit 1,000 relatives of patients with Crohn’s from across the UK, and collect blood, urine and stool samples and questionnaire data on diet and lifestyle.

“Crohn’s disease is a devastating and life-long condition, with an increasing prevalence in younger people,” Helen Terry, director of research at Crohn’s and Colitis UK, said in the release. “While scientists have learned a great deal about the disease and significant advances have been made in research, there are still many unanswered questions. We urgently need a better understanding of what causes this disease and we are excited by the potential of the GEM research project.”