Scientists Discover Inflammation-Driving Gene Linked to IBD

Scientists Discover Inflammation-Driving Gene Linked to IBD
A research team at Duke University Medical Center led by Michel Bagnat identified a gene called uhrf1 that regulates tumor necrosis factor (TNF) levels in the gut. The study entitled, “Epigenetic control of intestinal barrier function and inflammation in zebrafish” was published online in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on February 16, 2015. Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) are a group of chronic inflammatory conditions of the colon and small intestine including Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. IBD affects over 1.6 million Americans and can be triggered by various factors such as genetic variation, intestinal microbes, overactive immunity, and environmental exposures. TNF is a mediator of inflammation and its levels are elevated in the serum, mucosa and stool of IBD patients. TNF contributes to the destruction of the barrier formed by the intestinal epithelium that protects the body from microbes and other proinflammatory stimuli. Drugs targeting TNF, such as the monoclonal anti-TNF antibody, are a highly efficacious IBD therapy. However, what triggers an increase in TNF levels in the gut, or how this leads to the onset of disease remains to be fully understood.
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