Twin studies may reveal more information about the genetic and environment factors which cause IBD


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An old database of IBD clinical data from twins, supplemented by new genetic information, will provide a focus for study for genetic and environmental factors in the condition.


This represents an important effort, compiling one of the largest IBD twin registries and twin bio-banks ever assembled.

Dr. Marcus Harbord, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital

What the research looked at:

A national IBD twin database was developed at the Royal Free Hospital 17 years ago, since then it has lain dormant. The researchers want to use this as the basis of a new collection of information about familial IBD.

Twins offer a unique insight into the relative importance of genetic and environmental factors in causing IBD. The researchers want to find out why IBD sometimes only develops in one twin. It will allow comparisons of both the genetics and the environmental factors (such as smoking, medicines, pollution) influencing the condition.

The researchers also want to study twins in order to try and understand the role of bacteria in IBD. They will analyse urine and stool samples to see if there is any differences between affected and unaffected twins. They want to start with looking at identical twins (who will have exactly the same genetics), before looking at non-identical twins, and multiplex families (families where 3 or more first degree relatives have been diagnosed with IBD).

Conclusions: This study is ongoing. However, preliminary analysis of the first 100 twin pairs has already shown some interesting results. Identical twins with Crohn’s were both more likely to have the disease than non-identical twins – this was not seen so much with Ulcerative Colitis, which suggests it may have a less genetic component than Crohn’s.

What do researchers think this could this mean for people with IBD?

Twins offer a great opportunity to study exactly similar genetics and then look for different environmental factors that may influence IBD. A comprehensive database of twins allows these studies to be wider reaching and more concrete.

Who is leading the research: Dr Marcus Harbord, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital

Our funding: £5,000 over 24 months

Tags: Genetics / Causes of IBD