DEC 06, 2021 8:57 AM PST

IBS and Depression Have Genetic Risk Factors in Common

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common condition around the world, and it can cause bloating, abdominal pain, and dysfunction that significantly impacts some people's quality of life. (It is not the same as inflammatory bowel disease, an umbrella term that can refer to Crohn's disease and bowel cancer). Mood and anxiety disorders are also common everywhere. Scientists have now found that some genetic risk factors are shared by IBS and psychiatric disorders. This research can give scientists a better understanding of the biological basis of these issues, which may open up new treatment options.

Image credit: Pixabay

Reporting in Nature Genetics, researchers analyzed genetic data from over 40,000 people in the UK Biobank who were diagnosed with IBS, and 12,852 participants in a global study searching for IBS-linked genes. That data was compared to genetic information from 433,201 individuals that did not have IBS. Another analysis was performed using genetic data from 23andMe Inc. customers who consented to being a part of research studies; this assessment included 205,252 individuals with IBS and 1,384,055 people without IBS.

The study indicated that IBS is generally not a condition that we inherit or get from our genes. Environmental conditions seem to have a far greater influence on the likelihood that a person will develop IBS, and that when many family members have IBS, it may be due to shared behavioral patterns, diets, or stresses.

Some genetic factors did emerge, however. Six genes carried variants that were more common in people with IBS compared to controls: NCAM1, CADM2, PHF2/FAM120A, DOCK9, CKAP2/TPTE2P3 and BAG6. But these genes, surprisingly, are not active in the gut. Instead, many have roles in the brain and potentially, nerves that signal to the gut.

A pattern emerged in which the genetic susceptibility for IBS was overlapping with vulnerability to mental health conditions; some of the same genetic factors that raise a person's risk of IBS also seem to increase the risk of anxiety and mood disorders, including depression, anxiety, and insomnia. This evidence does not indicate that there is a causal relationship, noted the researchers; this should not be interpreted that IBS causes anxiety or vice versa.

"IBS is a common problem, and its symptoms are real and debilitating. Although IBS occurs more frequently in those who are prone to anxiety, we don't believe that one causes the other. Our study shows these conditions have shared genetic origins, with the affected genes possibly leading to physical changes in brain or nerve cells that in turn cause symptoms in the brain and symptoms in the gut," explained co-senior study investigator Professor Miles Parkes of the University of Cambridge.

This research also suggested that when someone has had both anxiety and IBS, they were more likely to have received frequent antibiotic treatments in childhood. Antibiotics are known to disrupt the gut microbiome, which has a close link to human health.

While genes may only be having a small influence on IBS, even a subtle impact could provide scientists with the information they need to identify the pathways that should be targeted for treatment, noted lead study author Chris Eijsbouts of the University of Oxford. Large human studies like this one can reveal those subtle patterns.

Sources: University of Cambridge, Nature Genetics

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
OCT 29, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
An Ancestor of Modern Humans is Given a Proper Name
OCT 29, 2021
An Ancestor of Modern Humans is Given a Proper Name
Homo bodoensis is a direct ancestor of modern humans who lived in Africa during the Middle Pleistocene, and seen in this ...
NOV 09, 2021
Plants & Animals
It Seems a Single Molecule Can Govern Ant Behavior
NOV 09, 2021
It Seems a Single Molecule Can Govern Ant Behavior
Some people change careers, and it seems that the Harpegnathos saltator ant can do the same; worker ants can switch to q ...
NOV 10, 2021
Plants & Animals
Glow in the Dark Worms Illuminate the Secrets of Regeneration
NOV 10, 2021
Glow in the Dark Worms Illuminate the Secrets of Regeneration
According to a new study published in Developmental Cell, researchers are employing transgenesis methods to introduce a ...
NOV 14, 2021
Microbiology
Beneficial Bacteria May Help Fight Ear Infections Caused by Bacterial Pathogens
NOV 14, 2021
Beneficial Bacteria May Help Fight Ear Infections Caused by Bacterial Pathogens
Researchers have identified bacteria that have the potential to fight infections that affect the middle ear and can caus ...
NOV 15, 2021
Microbiology
Is the Gut Microbiome - Autism Link Due to Diet?
NOV 15, 2021
Is the Gut Microbiome - Autism Link Due to Diet?
Research has shown that the gut microbiome, which consists of trillions of bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other microorga ...
DEC 15, 2021
Microbiology
A Genetic Modification Alters Bacterial Behavior to Produce Artistic Swirls
DEC 15, 2021
A Genetic Modification Alters Bacterial Behavior to Produce Artistic Swirls
Researchers engineered a genetic circuit to make pathogenic bacteria called Myxococcus xanthus move in swirled patterns.
Loading Comments...