Researchers have newly associated nine genetic regions with a rare autoimmune disease of the liver known as primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC). This brings the total number of genetic regions associated with the disease to 16.
Approximately 70 per cent of people who suffer from PSC also suffer from IBD. The team showed that only half of the newly associated genetic regions were shared with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). For the first time, this definitively proves that PSC, although genetically related to IBD, is a distinct disease.
PSC is a chronic, progressive disease of the bile ducts that channels bile from the liver into the intestines. It can cause inflammation of the bile ducts (cholangitis) and liver scarring that leads to liver cirrhosis and liver failure. There are no effective treatments available. Although PSC affects only one in 10,000 people, it is a leading cause of liver transplant surgery.
"Before our study, it was never quite clear whether PSC was a complication of IBD or a distinct disease in its own right," says Dr Carl Anderson, lead author from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. "We have proven it to be a unique disease, and hope that our results will inform the development of more effective treatments, designed to target the biological pathways involved in causing the disease".
The work involved an international group of scientists from the International PSC study group recruiting patients from 13 countries within Europe and North America. Without this large collaborative effort it would not have been possible to obtain the large number of patient DNA samples necessary for the study.
The team used DNA genotyping technology to survey more thoroughly regions of the genome known to underlie other immune-related diseases to discover if they also play a role in PSC susceptibility.
In addition to the nine genetic regions newly associated, they also saw strong signals at three regions
|Contact: Aileen Sheehy|
Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute