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McGill researchers discover gene that increases susceptibility to Crohn's disease
Date:1/8/2009

rates in the world. Crohn's affects between 400,000 and 600,000 people in North America.

The 400 square metres of the intestinal absorptive area is the largest single surface in or on the human body, and it is covered by billions of bacteria of the intestinal microflora living in the gastrointestinal tract.

"The single layer of cells lining your intestinal digestive tract is thus constantly exposed to high levels of bacteria and pathogens," Villani explained. "These cells must recognize and respond appropriately to the harmful bacteria while maintaining tolerance to the non-pathogenic 'good' bacteria that make up your intestinal microbial flora. This is the central challenge of the digestive immune system, which needs to balance defence versus tolerance."

"The protein encoded by the Crohn's disease susceptibility gene NLRP3, cryopyrin, is an intracellular bacteria sensor that plays a key role in initiating immune response," explained Villani. Based on their results, researchers theorize the bacterial sensor cryopyrin is probably defective in some patients, and doesn't correctly recognize the presence of harmful bacteria.

"When the digestive immune system's counter-attack is insufficient to clear the threat," Ms. Villani continued, "there is a bacterial infiltration in the intestinal wall through the first line of defence mechanisms. The digestive immune system will again try to repel the threat, but the effort may not be sufficient, and this usually leads to a vicious cycle that results in chronic inflammation in the intestinal wall. And that is Crohn's disease."

"This gene also plays a central role in the regulation of fever, which is one of the most primitive defence mechanisms that exists in humans to fight the surrounding pathogenic bacteria," Dr. Hudson added. "DNA sequence variations in the NLRP3 gene are also known to be responsible for hereditary periodic fever syndromes."

"Previously published geno
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Contact: Mark Shainblum
mark.shainblum@mcgill.ca
514-398-2189
McGill University
Source:Eurekalert

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