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‘Holy Grail’ Breakthrough As Major Cause Of Bowel Disease Discovered

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In a significant medical breakthrough, researchers have discovered a major cause of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), as well as existing drugs that could be used to treat the condition, the Guardian reported. The breakthrough was described as a “massive step forward” by researchers. 

An autoimmune disease, such as IBD, which encompasses Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, presently affects approximately 5% of the world’s population. One part of the immune system that is highly implicated in IBD is white blood cells called macrophages. These flood the linings of the intestines where they release chemicals causing massive inflammation.

Inflammation is part of the body’s normal response to infection, but too much for too long can have devastating health consequences. 

The breakthrough came as researchers discovered a part of DNA only active in some immune cells which causes inflammation in the bowels. They found a weak spot in human DNA that is present in 95 per cent of people with the disease, making it easier for some immune cells to crank up the amount of proteins they make, resulting in inflammation in the bowels.

“What we have found is one of the very central pathways that goes wrong when people get inflammatory bowel disease and this has been something of a holy grail,” said Dr James Lee, the group leader of the genetic mechanisms of disease laboratory at the Francis Crick Institute in London.

”Even for pure, fundamental immunology, this is a really exciting discovery. But to show this is dysregulated in people who get disease not only gives us a better understanding of the disease, it tells us this is something we can treat,” Mr Lee added. 

As per BBC, the team have already found existing drugs that seem to reverse the disease in laboratory experiments and are now aiming for human trials. 

The drugs would also need to be precisely calibrated to calm the IBD, but not leave a patient susceptible to infection by switching off the good side of inflammation in fighting the disease.

Ruth Wakeman at Crohn’s and Colitis UK said, ”Crohn’s and colitis are complex, lifelong conditions for which there is no cure, but research like this is helping us to answer some of the big questions about what causes them. This research is a really exciting step towards the possibility of a world free from Crohn’s and colitis.”

They aim is to start clinical trials within five years.

 The breakthrough came as researchers discovered a part of DNA only active in some immune cells which causes inflammation in the bowels.    

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