For a long time we have known that changes in our DNA can make us more likely to get IBD. In 2001 a French doctor found that changes in a gene called NOD2 make people more susceptible to developing Crohn’s disease. The protein produced when NOD2 is ‘decoded’ is also called NOD2 (confusing I know!). Lots of research has now shown that the NOD2 protein is involved in recognising certain bacteria and viruses in the intestine as well as having several other important jobs. However, it is still very unclear how these changes in the NOD2 gene found in Crohn’s disease play their part in the development of disease.
A group in Edinburgh have recently published the results of an experiment that tried to find new proteins that work together with NOD2 to increase the risk of developing IBD. Using a very complicated experiment in yeast, they found six new proteins that combine with NOD2, one of which was TLE1. They then went on to show that certain mutations in the TLE1 gene and the NOD2 gene were both needed to increase the risk of developing Crohn’s disease. This work is potentially very important and paves the way for new IBD research looking at the interactions between our genes and also other mechanisms that control how our DNA is decoded (termed “epigenetics”).
Genetics is a huge and complicated subject. You may wish to have a look at the following links if you want to know more about the science of genetics and the terms used.
Great link to a “Learn the Basics of Genetics” website:
Genetic glossary link: