An international research consortium has identified a new genetic risk factor for coeliac disease based on the genome data on 1500 British individuals from the Sanger Institute as well as data from over four thousand individuals with and without coeliac disease, amongst British, Irish and Dutch populations.
What they found is that healthy individuals more often have a protective DNA sequence in the interleukin-2 and interleukin-21 gene region than individuals with coeliac disease. Interleukin-2 and interleukin-21 are cytokine proteins secreted by white blood cells that control inflammation. It is likely that the protective DNA sequence leads to different amounts of these cytokines being produced -than in someone with coeliac disease- providing defence against intestinal inflammation.
Aside from providing insight into the disease, these findings may be a tool for identifying individuals who are more likely to develop coeliac disease, and may possibly lead to the development of new therapies. The study has been published online in Nature Genetics (10 June 2007).