Five new genetic variants linked to Crohn’s disease (a chronic inflammatory disease of the intestines) in Jewish people of Eastern European descent (Ashkenazi Jews), have been identified by a team of researchers from Mount Sinai School of Medicine. These findings will help to better understand why the prevalence of the disease is almost four times greater in Ashkenazi Jews than in other populations.

The study, led by Inga Peter, Associate Professor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, is published in PLoS Genetics.

Earlier investigations had discovered 71 genetic mutations of Crohn’s disease risk in people of European ancestry. In this study, the researchers used DNA samples from 1,878 Ashkenazi Jews with the disease, and 4,469 Jews without Crohn’s disease, in order to analyze their genetic make-up. The team discovered 5 new genetic risk regions on chromosomes 2, 5, 8, 10, and 11 (specifically regions 2p15, 5q21.1, 8q21.11, 10q26.3, and 11q12.1), in addition to 12 of the known risk variants.

Dr. Peter, explained:

“This is the largest study to date, and the first to discover the unique risk factors of Crohn’s disease in the Ashkenazi Jewish population. The prevalence of this disease is so much higher in Ashkenazi Jews, and the involvement of genetic variants predominant in this population might help to understand why that is.”

Furthermore, the researchers assessed earlier findings in non-Jewish Europeans with the disease. They discovered that the genetic architecture of the 5 new variants linked to Crohn’s disease risk in the Ashkenazi Jewish group was significantly less diverse than that of non-Jewish Europeans.

Dr. Peter, said:

“Not only did we discover different risk factors for Ashkenazi Jews, but we found that some previously known risk factors are more potent to this population. Armed with this new information, we can begin to analyze the specific signals in order to pinpoint causal genetic mutations, discover why they are malfunctioning, and eventually develop novel treatment approaches.”

Written by Grace Rattue