Scientists looking into the genetic causes of Crohn's disease have discovered a surprising link between the bowel disorder and asthma.
A gene called ORMDL3, known to be a risk factor for childhood asthma, is also associated with Crohn's, researchers found. Links between the condition and other diseases were also uncovered by the study, which found a clutch of new Crohn's-related genes.
Crohn's is an auto-immune disease that affects up to one in 500 people in the UK, causing inflammation of the gut leading to pain, ulcers and diarrhoea. The disorder is complex and affected by large numbers of genes, evidence suggests.
Previous studies had already identified 11 genes and loci - sections of DNA where one or more unknown genes may reside - that increase susceptibility to the disease. The new research has expanded that number to 32.
Dr Miles Parkes, consultant gastroenterologist at Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, who took part in the research, said: "It's too early for us to say how Crohn's disease and many of these other diseases, including asthma, are linked at a biological level.
"However, we are building up a picture of the biology underlying Crohn's disease, and the more we understand about the underlying biology of these diseases, the better equipped we will be to treat them."