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Crohn's Study Looks at Genetic, Lifestyle Factors

11 OCTOBER 2005

MEDIA RELEASE
For Immediate Use

Crohn's Disease Study Looks at Genetic And Lifestyle Factors

University of Auckland researchers are looking for participants for a study which aims to develop individually tailored diets to alleviate the symptoms of Crohn’s disease (CD).

Researchers from the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences are looking for 1000 people in the North Island who are affected by CD. Participants will be asked to provide a small blood sample, and participate in a questionnaire to assess their diets and lifestyle.

The study – which has approval from the University’s Multi-region Ethics Committee - will run over a two-year period, as part of Nutrigenomics New Zealand, a collaboration between The University of Auckland, AgResearch, Crop and Food Research, and HortResearch.

Principal investigator Professor Lynn Ferguson says it is the first time a population in New Zealand will be assessed for genes related to CD at the same time as both lifestyle and dietary factors.

“CD is a chronic, recurrent disease of the intestinal tract that causes pain, diarrhoea, fever and weight loss. Patients are typically on long-term medications, with their own inherent problems.

“There is now strong evidence of a genetic link, since CD often clusters in family groups. It seems that the normal bacteria growing in the lower gut may in some manner act to promote inflammation in CD patients. The only current treatments of the disease reduce suffering with significant side effects; they do not cure or prevent CD.”

As part of the study, blood samples will be collected from the participants, and family histories taken of CD and dietary preferences.

“DNA analysis will allow identification of mutations in known CD genes, so that we can develop a genetic profile of the local patients. We can then use model systems to identify foods that are likely to enhance or alleviate CD symptoms in individuals of a given genotype.”

Professor Ferguson says that once researchers know which genes are involved, and are able to analyse participants’ current dietary preferences, they will use nutrigenomics methods to identify specific foods which can be added to or removed from the individual’s diet.

Nutrigenomics is the study of the response of humans to food and food components. It aims to develop foods that can be matched to individual human genotypes to improve the health of individuals and enhance normal physiological processes.

“Using nutrigenomics methods we will develop novel foods and dietary guidelines appropriate to reducing the disease symptoms. Genotype analysis is expected to improve patient outcome by tailoring diet specific to genotype.

“There are excellent theoretical grounds for believing that these patients would respond to nutrigenomic foods, which are likely to be more successful in attaining and maintaining remission than current treatments of CD,” says Professor Ferguson.

The design and development of “new foods” using nutrigenomics methods is a novel approach that is expected to reduce the risk of genetically linked disease progression.

Anyone interested in participating in the research should contact Professor Ferguson on phone (09) 373 7599 ext. 86372.

The study has been funded by a grant from the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology.

ENDS

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