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Secrets of Crohn's Disease Revealed in the Human Microbiome

Oct 22, 2014 1:00:33 PM / by James Sanchez

Intriguing research has zeroed in on the microbiome's role in a puzzling gastrointestinal disorder

Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disorder affecting approximately half a million people in North America and a million in Europe. The troublesome symptoms can include abdominal pain, diarrhea, fevers, sores, and even growth retardation. As researchers work toward understanding the disease’s causes, they have encountered a complicated picture. Mysteries persist, but it appears that Crohn’s disease entails a genetically predisposed immune system at odds with digested food – and with bacteria.

Indeed, the microbiome, the 100 trillion microbes that live with us, many of them in our guts, may play a role. In one study, researchers looked at tissue samples acquired from the intestines of children and adolescents that were recently diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. For comparison, the scientists also examined samples from people with non-inflammatory gut diseases.[1]

Crohn's disease Crohn's disease can affect all sections of the gastrointestinal tract. What does the gut microbiome tell us? Image credit:

The investigation revealed that the young patients with Crohn's disease exhibited a disrupted microbial balance: Some known harmful bacteria thrived, whereas beneficial bacteria tended to be rare. Remarkably, biopsies taken from rectal tissue provided reliable indicators of the disease, even when inflammation was experienced elsewhere in the gastrointestinal tract. This finding bodes well for minimally collecting patient samples.

So, should antibiotics be used to eradicate these harmful bacteria? That approach might actually be counterproductive. The good bacteria are eliminated along with the bad, and the end result may be a reduced microbial diversity in which deleterious microbes simply return in greater numbers.

A later investigation again identified a microbial disparity in Crohn's disease patients and also identified the over-expression of an antimicrobial dual oxidase gene, DUOX2, and the suppression of an anti-inflammatory/antioxidant gene, APOA1.[2] This gene signature favors oxidative stress. Researchers hope that a better understanding of the microbial basis of Crohn's disease will lead to targeted therapies that home in on the true causes.

HemaCare appreciates the utility of disease-state biological products in illuminating the etiology of disorders. HemaCare provides whole blood, plasma, serum, mononuclear cells, and any other cell types per request from IRB consented Crohn's disease volunteer donors.


1. Gevers, D. et al. The treatment-naive microbiome in new onset Crohn's Disease. Cell Host Microbe March 2014;15(3):382-392.

2. Haberman, Y et al. Pedriatic Crohn disease patients exhibit specific ileal transcriptome and microbiome signature. J Clin Invest. August 2014;124(8):3617-3633


Topics: disease-state products, genes, microbiome, Basic Research

James Sanchez

Written by James Sanchez

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