Understanding Ulcerative Colitis Starts with One Little Gene

One of the first steps toward fixing any sort of problem is identifying the cause.

This is true of nearly any problem. This is true of the crack in the vase that keeps leaking water all over your mantel. Heck, it’s even true of the crack in the radiator reservoir causing your air conditioning to go out every summer on the hottest day.

In fact, searching for the causes of diseases is a primary function of most medical researchers as they look for new treatments.

That’s exactly what happened recently with research about inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), including conditions like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

Crohn’s disease is a condition when inflammation in the digestive tract can cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, and fatigue. Ulcerative colitis is similar in that it is inflammation in the bowels, but there is the added component of ulcers (or sores) present. The symptoms are very similar to Crohn’s disease as well. Combined, IBDs affect nearly 1 in 200 people worldwide.

Researchers believe a specific gene might unlock clues to the cause of these diseases. The gene, which has a code rather than a name, is known to scientists as MDR1. It is involved in the renal system—the network of organs and tissues used to rid the body of toxins and waste. When this gene is blocked from functioning properly, bowel diseases manifest.

However, researchers in Scotland have introduced drug treatments that can unblock certain forms of MDR1 malfunctions.

The drug in question, Mitoquinone, may help people with IBD, given the encouraging results in tests conducted on mice. Other countries, including the United States and England, are also researching the effects this drug can have on humans.

With any luck, new treatment options can be made available soon.

Click here to read an article discussing the announcement by the researchers last month.

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