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New GENIEUR Initiative Works to Gain Better Understanding of IBS

Woman suffers severe IBS cramps and bloatingThe Europe-wide network GENIEUR which includes researchers from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, Sahlgrenska Academy, and the Karolinska Institutet, Sweden, are preparing to launch a new research program aimed at gaining a better understanding of irritable bowel syndrome. Their research team hopes that by gaining a better understanding of this condition, it will lead to better methods of diagnosing and treating IBS.

In an unprecedented event, scientists from 19 European countries have come together to form the first interdisciplinary network for investigating the causes of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Overall, medical researchers have been looking to gain a better understanding of this disease.

IBS is a Common Condition in the U.S.

The GENIEUR (Genes in Irritable Bowel Syndrome Europe), which is primarily funded by the European Science Foundation, looks to identify potential genes and DNA variants that could increase a person’s risk of developing IBS symptoms.

Nowadays, IBS has become a fairly common condition in the United States and in other countries throughout Europe. In fact, it has become the second most common cause of work absenteeism following the common cold in Sweden. New cases of IBS are diagnosed based on a combination of symptoms including constipation, bloating, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. With the lack of knowledge concerning the etiology of IBS, there is no cure available at this time, and treatments may not work for all patients.

Working Collaboratively to Solve the Mystery of IBS

The GENIEUR network consists of more than 70 research groups, and it is currently headed by Dr. Beate Niesler at Heidelberg University Hospital’s Institute of Human Genetics. These research teams are situated at various institutes and facilities throughout Europe, including the University of Gothenburg, Sahlgrenska Academy, and Karolinska Institutet.

The co-chair of the GENIEUR initiative is Professor Magnus Simren, who works at the Department of Internal Medicine and Clinical Nutrition at the Sahlgrenska Academy. Professor Simren hopes that by using the combined knowledge obtained from researchers who are experts in different fields, they can work to solve the mystery of IBS. In addition to being the co-chair, Professor Simren is also the head of a research team studying the mechanisms which might cause the symptoms of IBS.

Genetic Predisposing Factors for IBS

According to docent Mauro D’Amato from Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Biosciences and Nutrition, “IBS is only modestly inherited, and there are so far very few examples of known predisposing genes”. In addition to being a key member of the management committee for GENIEUR, D’Amato also identified the involvement of the NPSR1 and TNFSF15 genes in irritable bowel syndrome.

In order to maximize their chances of detecting positive genetic predisposing factors for IBS, they are going to need a large number of thoroughly-characterized patients. This is exactly why the GENIEUR research teams are working to establish a large IBS biobank which will contain clinical material obtained from patients and health controls.

The primary goal of creating this biobank will be to identify a grouping of reliable biomarkers and then compile a catalogue of criteria, which the research teams could use to easily assign new patients to individual clinical subgroups. Thus by effectively incorporating this broad knowledge base, the potential for new clinical breakthroughs that could obtained with a large patient pool like this is exponential.

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