My last two blogs have focussed on our raw genetic code that scientists have previously shown can differ between those with and without IBD. It is now becoming clear that it is not only this raw code that differs, but also the way in which this code is “cracked”, leading to differing expression of certain proteins which may be partly responsible for the development of IBD.
The differences in the way genes are “expressed” is controlled by several different processes which together are called “epigenetics” (literally “over-genetics”). For many years scientists investigating cancer have been interested in these processes, but it is only recently that epigenetics has been studied in IBD.
In this month’s paper, scientists looked at the epigenetic profile of 40 people, as well as 16 children, with and without IBD. Using similar techniques as I’ve discussed in previous blogs, they looked at various areas along the entire length of each person’s DNA, but this time looking specifically at DNA methylation (a complex epigenetic process). They found significant differences between those with and without IBD, and most interestingly, in the same areas of DNA where we know the raw code is also different. Although this is only the first step in exploring this complicated area of science, it is hoped that understanding these changes more fully will allow a deeper insight into how IBD develops, and hopefully, suggest better ways to treat it!
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