UCLA researchers were part of a team that has discovered the interplay of several genetic factors that may be involved in the development of early-onset ulcerative colitis, a severe type of inflammatory bowel disease. The early research findings in mice suggest possible new targets for prevention and treatment strategies to address the inflammation generated by early-onset ulcerative colitis. This rare disease affects infants and young children and can lead to early development of colon cancer and an increased risk of liver damage. Scientists from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and Pusan National University in South Korea also created a first-of-its-kind animal model that mimics early-onset ulcerative colitis and can be used to help test new drug candidates to treat the disease. Their findings are published onlinw in Gastroenterology. "We hope that identifying these key genetic factors and providing a unique research model will help lead to new approaches to treat early-onset ulcerative colitis, a devastating disease that currently has no cure," said Dr. Sang Hoon Rhee, the study's senior author and an associate adjunct professor of medicine in the Division of Digestive Diseases at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. Although inflammatory bowel disease can occur at any age, approximately 25 percent of cases develop in people 18 years of age or younger, some of whom have early-onset ulcerative colitis. Those who develop the disease at such a young age are at a higher risk of developing colon cancer. They also have an increased risk for liver damage because the inflammation caused by the disease leads to a narrowing of the bile ducts that connect to the liver.
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