discoveries magazine

Ancestry Matters

Landmark IBD study reveals the need to take ancestry into account.

Genetic risk factors for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) differ dramatically between African Americans and people of European ancestry, according to a pioneering study co-led by Cedars-Sinai.

Investigators analyzed the genes of more than 1,700 patients who have Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, the most common forms of IBD. The results found that the most important genetic risk factor for IBD in African Americans is a relatively minor factor among whites. Conversely, genes associated with IBD in whites play smaller roles in contributing to disease development among those of African descent. The landmark study also found rare genetic variants underlying IBD risk in African Americans that had eluded previous research.

"One of our goals in treating IBD is to move toward a more personalized approach," says Dermot McGovern, MD, PhD, director of Translational Research in the Inflammatory Bowel and Immunobiology Research Institute at Cedars-Sinai, and the Joshua L. and Lisa Z. Greer Chair in Inflammatory Bowel Disease Genetics. "Deciphering genetic architecture is vital to ensuring that diverse populations benefit from the tremendous advances promised by genomic medicine."