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Novartis Found Symp. 2004;263:151-8; discussion 159-63, 211-8.

Genetic aspects of intestinal permeability in inflammatory bowel disease.

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Department of Medicine, Guy's, King's, St Thomas' School of Medicine, Bessemer Road, London SE5 9PJ, UK.


There is a long-standing belief that disruption of the intestinal barrier function may lead to systemic and local intestinal disease. The role of increased intestinal permeability in Crohn's disease is reviewed here. What is not in doubt is that intestinal permeability in patients with Crohn's disease is increased proportional to disease activity; it can be used to predict clinical relapse of disease and prognosis; and a small proportion of first-degree relatives have increased intestinal permeability. This last finding has been subject to much speculation. In particular it has been suggested that it represents a genetically determined abnormality. If so it might play an important pathogenic process in the disease. However this permeability change in relatives does not conform to a classical inheritance pattern and in some studies it is found in the patients' spouses. This suggests an environmental cause for the changes. However proponents of an environmental factor have been singularly inactive in attempting to identify this agent(s). In view of recent research it seems likely that the increased intestinal permeability in relatives of Crohn's patients may be secondary to sub-clinical intestinal inflammation. This inflammation conforms to an inherited additive trait. The genetic basis for this inflammation is being studied.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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