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Rights: The University of Waikato
Published 1 May 2006

Lynn Ferguson from Auckland University explains why creating a family history of the disease can be difficult. What does this mean for researchers?


Thames High School: Can you have Crohn’s Disease and not know?

Lynn Ferguson (Nutrigenomics New Zealand)

es! Yes you can. And that was one of the things I was suggesting, that when the symptoms first start to develop, they can be very subtle, and you can just think Oh, must have eaten something that didn’t agree with me.

It is quite clear that some families have got really well recorded information. But for some of them there are some sort of coy records to an aunt or an uncle that has some sort of unknown problem. So there are families where we are certain there is Crohn’s disease in there; there are families where it’s not at all clear if there is some sort familial basis.

But if we can understand the genes that are important then we can look at relatives, then we can ask the question whether they have got the genetic susceptibility, and whether the progeny or relations are likely to be susceptible to disease.

The important thing is that it’s not just a gene; it’s genetic susceptibility that is inherited. And it may be that all the people in your family have got the Crohn’s disease gene, but because none of you smoke and all of you exercise regularly, you are never exposed to it. And so it maybe that you just don’t find it out because of other characteristics that aren’t genetic, they are to do with your background, the way you have been bought up, and your preferences.