Research connects mouse mutation with inflammatory bowel disease


JUPITER, Fla. A team of scientists at The Scripps Research Institute has linked a mouse mutation to an increased susceptibility for developing inflammatory bowel disease — represented in humans as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, which together are estimated to affect more than a million people in the United States. The findings may one day lead to new and better treatments for the disease.

The work was published in the Feb. 6, 2009 Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The disease is associated with painful ulcers and bleeding in people's intestines and can place them at greater risk for colon cancer. Although common, the disease is still somewhat mysterious. The Scripps Research study sheds light on a major mechanism through which it may develop. "We are just beginning to get a sense of the complexity of inflammatory bowel disease as far as humans are concerned," stated Bruce Beutler, who is the chairman of the Scripps Research Department of Genetics.

Scientists have known for a long time that IBD is linked to genetics — it runs in families, for instance. However, there seems to be no single gene responsible. More likely, says Beutler, mutations in many different genes have additive effects and cause people to develop variably severe forms of the disease. One of the long-term goals of his laboratory is to identify these genes and the main biological processes they control.

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