Scientists make a big breakthrough in understanding Inflammatory Bowel Disease

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Researchers from Rutgers and various institutions have made a significant breakthrough in understanding Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), uncovering how it variably affects people based on race, gender, and place of birth.

Their findings, published in Gastro Hep Advances, provide crucial insights into the development and progression of IBD, a term encompassing Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, both of which cause chronic inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract.

The study, led by Lea Ann Chen, an assistant professor at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, delved into patient records from Belleview Hospital in New York, covering the period from 1997 to 2017.

The researchers meticulously analyzed 525 patient files, focusing on a racially diverse group from a similar socioeconomic background, which helped reduce the confounding impact of economic factors.

Key findings of the study include:

  • Asian patients, both U.S.-born and immigrants, were over twice as likely as white patients to be men.
  • Black patients had more than double the likelihood of undergoing intestinal resection compared to white patients.
  • There was a marked difference in the type of IBD prevalent among U.S.-born Black patients (more likely to have Crohn’s disease) compared to Black immigrants (more likely to have ulcerative colitis).
  • Foreign-born patients across all races generally experienced milder IBD. They developed symptoms later in life, leaned towards ulcerative colitis rather than Crohn’s disease, and required less surgery and medication.

These findings suggest that cultural and environmental factors play significant roles in the progression of IBD.

For example, Black patients born in the U.S. were more prone to Crohn’s disease and its complications than those born abroad, pointing towards the influence of local environmental or lifestyle factors.

Another intriguing aspect was the genetic predisposition observed in the study.

The stark difference in IBD cases between Asian men and women, regardless of their birthplace, hints at possible genetic factors offering protection against IBD, especially in East Asian women.

This research not only expands the understanding of IBD’s impact across different demographics but also emphasizes the need to consider cultural, environmental, and genetic factors in diagnosing and treating IBD.

The study is a step forward in personalized medicine, providing a clearer picture of how IBD manifests in various groups and paving the way for tailored treatment approaches.

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The research findings can be found in Gastro Hep Advances.

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