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Towards explanation for Crohn's disease?


Published: 9 Jul 2009

An innovative study at the Research Institute of the MUHC has brought us closer to an explanation for Crohn's disease

An innovative study at the Research Institute of the MUHC has brought
us closer to an explanation for Crohn's disease

Twenty-five per cent of Crohn's disease patients have a mutation in what is called the NOD2 gene, but it is not precisely known how this mutation influences the disease. The latest study by Dr. Marcel Behr, of the Research Institute of the MUHC and McGill University, has provided new insight into how this might occur. The study will be published on July 9th in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

When the NOD2 gene functions normally, it codes for a receptor that will recognize invading bacteria and then trigger the immune response. This study demonstrates that the NOD2 receptor preferentially recognizes a peptide called N-glycolyl-MDP, which is only found in a specific family of bacteria called mycobacteria. When mycobacteria invade the human body, they cause an immediate and very strong immune response via the NOD2 receptor.

"Now that we have a better understanding of the normal role of NOD2, we think that a mutation in this gene prevents mycobacteria from being properly recognized by the immune system," explained Dr. Behr. "If mycobacteria are not recognized, the body cannot effectively fight them off and then becomes persistently infected."

Researchers were already aware of the relationship between mycobacteria and Crohn's disease, but they did not know whether the presence of bacteria was a cause or a consequence of the disease. This new discovery associates the predisposition for Crohn's disease with both the NOD2 mutation and the presence of mycobacteria, but researchers must still determine the precise combination of these factors to understand how the disease develops.

More research is required to establish a complete explanation. From this, it is expected that new therapeutic approaches that fight the cause of Crohn's disease may be developed.

Listen to the interview with Dr. Behr MP3

Dr. Marcel Behr
Dr. Marcel Behr is a researcher in the Infection and Immunity Axis at the Research Institute of the MUHC and an Associate Professor of Medicine and William Dawson Scholar of McGill University.

This study was funded by a grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). The salaries of some researchers were provided by the Fonds de la recherche en santé du Québec.

This article was co-authored by François Coulombe, Maziar Divanghi, Frédéric Veyrier, Louis de Léséleuc, Dr. Michael B. Reed and Dr Marcel Behr from the Research Institute of the MUHC; James L. Gleason of McGill University; and Yibin Yang, Michelle A. Kelliher, Amit K. Pandey, and Christopher M. Sassetti of the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

L'Institut de recherche du Centre universitaire de santé McGill (IR CUSM) est un centre de recherche de réputation mondiale dans le domaine des sciences biomédicales et des soins de santé. Établi à Montréal, au Québec, il constitue la base de recherche du CUSM, centre hospitalier universitaire affilié à la Faculté de médecine de l'Université McGill. L'Institut compte plus de 600 chercheurs, près de 1 200 étudiants diplômés et postdoctoraux et plus de 300 laboratoires de recherche consacrés à un large éventail de domaines de recherche, fondamentale et clinique. L'Institut de recherche est à l'avant-garde des connaissances, de l'innovation et de la technologie. La recherche de l'Institut est étroitement liée aux programmes cliniques du CUSM, ce qui permet aux patients de bénéficier directement des connaissances scientifiques les plus avancées.
L'Institut de recherche du CUSM est soutenu en partie par le Fonds de la recherche en santé du Québec.
Pour de plus amples renseignements, consulter l'adresse www.cusm.ca/research.

Pour de plus amples renseignements, veuillez contacter :

Isabelle Kling
Coordonnatrice des communications (Recherche)
Relations publiques et Communications, CUSM
(514) 843 1560
isabelle [dot] kling [at] muhc [dot] mcgill [dot] ca

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