Backsides and Rear Ends

Researchers discover genetic link between spinal arthritis and Crohn's disease

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Australian researchers have discovered a genetic link between a certain type of spinal arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease.

Professor Matt Brown and colleagues noticed that many patients of ankylosing spondylitis - a common type of arthritis involving chronic inflammation of the spinal and pelvic joints - seemed to be highly vulnerable to inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn's disease. Conversely, patients of irritable bowel syndrome commonly develop ankylosing spondylitis.

Noticing this relationship, Brown and other researchers from England, North America, and Canada wanted to see if the same disease-causing pathways were responsible for both health conditions.

In order to find out if the genes involved with Crohn's disease were also part of the development of ankylosing spondylitis, the researchers looked for known genetic markers of Crohn's disease in over 2,700 patients with ankylosing spondylitis. They found that several genetic variations were associated with both ankylosing spondylitis and Crohn's disease. They identified seven specific genes that influence both diseases.

Upon closer inspection of the genes they had pinpointed, the researchers found that four of those genes are known to be a part of the activation of a recently discovered type of helper T-cells. According to the authors, identifying how these T-cells are involved considerably improves our understanding of the development of ankylosing spondylitis. Furthermore, the discovery provides new avenues of research for developing treatments for this type of arthritis as well as for Crohn's disease.

Ankylosing spondylitis is an inflammatory disease that causes spinal vertebrae to fuse together, often resulting in a hunched-over posture. In some severe cases, ankylosing spondylitis can make it impossible to lift one's head high enough to see forward.

Crohn's disease - a form of inflammatory bowel disease linked to problems with the body's immune responses - affects approximately 359,000 people in the United States. In 2004, Crohn's disease was responsible for an estimated 141,000 hospitalizations and 622 deaths.

The study by Brown and colleagues was published in December 2010 in the journal PLoS Genetics.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
February 22, 2011
Last Updated:
February 23, 2011