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Monday, 21 May, 2001, 18:30 GMT 19:30 UK
Crohn's gene uncovered
A candidate gene for Crohn's has been discovered
A gene which, if defective, could make people susceptible to Crohn's disease has been isolated by two separate research teams.

The discovery of the gene, called Nod2, could eventually pave the way towards treatments, even though this is thought to be just one of a few genes involved in the development of the disease.

Little progress been made into uncovering the origins of Crohn's disease, an inflammatory bowel condition which leads to ulceration of the gut wall.

The symptoms are fatigue, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and weight loss.

Patients are given drugs to reduce the inflammation, and sometimes require surgery to remove parts of the bowel left scarred and narrowed by repeated outbreaks.

Our hope has always been to identify the various factors that may be causing Crohn's disease

Richard Driscoll, NACC
The two teams, one from the Fondation Jean Daussett CEPH in Paris, and the University of Michigan Medical School in the US, are both presenting their research at the Digestive Disease Week conference.

The Nod2 gene appears to have a role in regulating the body's immune system.

Mutated copies

When defective, the system may run out of control and attack the gut lining, causing the inflammation.

Mutated copies of the gene were present in many patients with Crohn's - although not everyone with the defect will go on to develop the disease.

Crohn's disease affects approximately 40,000 people in the UK, with the numbers rising, particularly among younger people, although doctors are unsure of the reason.

Richard Driscoll, the director of the National Association for Colitis and Crohn's Disease (NACC), told BBC News Online: "This sounds like an exciting discovery.

"Our hope has always been to identify the various factors that may be causing Crohn's disease and then find ways to block these factors or switch them off.

"If this announcement really means that the first of these factors has now been discovered it must be very good news for patients."

The two papers on the Nod2 gene will also be appearing in the journal Nature this week.

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21 Apr 99 | Medical notes
Crohn's Disease
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