Published on June 7, 2012 at 2:26 AM
An estimated 1.4 million Americans have Inflammatory Bowel Disease, or IBD, a chronic digestive disorder, and about 30,000 new cases are diagnosed annually. Ulcerative colitis, one of the most common types of IBD, causes inflammation and ulcers in the top layers of the lining of the large intestine. Common symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea, bleeding, fatigue, weight loss and loss of appetite. Ulcerative colitis patients can be at increased risk of developing colorectal cancer.
"This study takes us an important step closer to understanding how fungi contribute to disease, as well as significantly expanding our understanding of what types of fungi are living in our bodies," said Iliyan Iliev, PhD, a Cedars-Sinai research scientist and lead author on the study.
To determine fungi contribute to inflammatory disease, the study homed in on a protein called Dectin-1, produced by white blood cells and used by the immune system to detect and kill fungi. In an animal model of the disease, researchers found that the protein is important in protecting against inflammation caused by indigenous fungi. The finding has significant implications for human disease, as scientists at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Genetics Institute found a variant of the gene for Dectin-1 that is strongly associated with severe forms of ulcerative colitis.