Researchers trying to find the key to a mysterious group of digestive ailments have located a number of biomarkers for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Their discovery could lead to earlier diagnoses and intervention for individuals still asymptomatic.
A team of scientists from the University of Cincinnati analyzed data from the Department of Defense Serum Repository (DoDSR), a collection of biological information, according to ScienceDaily. Its more than 50 million specimens of serum come mainly from members of and applicants to the uniformed services.
The two primary types of IBD are Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. The Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America reports that about 1.4 million Americans suffer from IBD, with roughly equal numbers attributed to Crohn's and ulcerative colitis.
According to WomensHealth.gov, the cause of IBD remains unknown. Experts suggest problems with an individual's immune system and a genetic predisposition. While ulcerative colitis affects only the first layer of the lining of the large intestine, Crohn's disease occurs in all layers of the intestines and can develop in the digestive tract anywhere between mouth and anus. Although Crohn's is incurable, surgery to remove an ulcerative colitis patient's colon cures that disorder.
The Cincinnati researchers collaborated with staff members from the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to identify 50 DoDSR subjects with Crohn's and 50 with ulcerative colitis. They then looked at various biomarkers to discover what the subjects had in common.
Using statistical analysis, they looked at proteins from three samples for each subject. Two samples were collected before diagnosis of the respective diseases, with the third after diagnosis.
Based on a prior University of Cincinnati research project, scientists decided upon which proteins to check in the 100 subjects. They noted elevated levels of specific proteins in those patients who developed IBD. While the proteins in patients who developed Crohn's were different from those seen in individuals with ulcerative colitis, the team demonstrated that protein levels were elevated in all those who actually developed IBD.
Researcher Bruce Yacyshyn, M.D., a gastroenterologist who is a professor of medicine at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, and staff members from the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center have requested funding to extend the biomarker study to a pediatric population. Their goal is to change the way healthcare providers screen for and treat IBD, boost prevention approaches, and enhance patients' quality of life.
Both my husband and I come from families where Crohn's disease is prevalent. While I have the disorder, he doesn't. We're encouraged by the identification of IBD biomarkers. To us, it means that future generations of our families will probably receive earlier diagnoses and might even avoid Crohn's entirely. At the very least, we expect them to suffer fewer debilitating effects from the illness that our generation has.
Vonda J. Sines has published thousands of print and online health and medical articles. She specializes in diseases and other conditions that affect the quality of life.
- Disease & Medical Conditions
- ulcerative colitis
- inflammatory bowel disease