Identifying genes behind chronic inflammatory diseases may pave way for new treatment

Queensland researchers have helped identify hundreds of genes that cause five debilitating chronic inflammatory diseases.

The study, which took eight years and involved 86,000 subjects from 26 countries, identified nearly 200 genes responsible for ankylosing spondylitis (AS), Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis (collectively known as inflammatory bowel disease), psoriasis, and primary sclerosing cholangitis.

Co-senior author Professor Matt Brown, from Brisbane's Queensland University of Technology, said the findings paved the way for new treatments and even potentially a cure.

"That was really exciting. We now know that the major reason why those diseases co-occur in families and individuals is because of genetic effects, and depending on which genes you get it depends on which diseases you actually get," he said.

The five inflammatory diseases tested affect about 3 per cent of the world's population.

Professor Brown said some of the 200 genes identified affect bacteria and viruses found in a normal gut.

"That suggests if we can adjust the bacteria and viruses in the gut we may be able to stop these diseases," Professor Brown said.

The focus is now on translating those findings into something that makes a difference to patients.

Brian Schroder, who suffered from AS for years before being diagnosed, said the option of genetic testing was crucial.

"It means that my children could be diagnosed a lot earlier so it's so important that this research can be carried on," he said.

"I hope it can lead to earlier diagnoses and hopefully can eradicate it. That would be fantastic."

Treatment using a tablet is expected to be trialled in two years.

The study has been published in the international journal Nature Genetics.

Source: ABC News

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