New blood test may aid diagnosis of Crohn’s disease

Scientists identify specific biomarkers that are unique to people with Crohn’s disease, which could aid in earlier diagnosis and new treatment.

The diagnosis, understanding and management of Crohn’s disease may have just received a helping hand from a team of researchers at ASU Biodesign Institute and Mayo Clinic developing a better blood test for the disease. Photo courtesy of Biodesign Institute, Arizona State University
March 9 (UPI) — A joint study from Arizona State University and the Mayo Clinic used biomarkers to create a blood test to aid in diagnosis and treatment of Crohn’s disease.

Crohn’s disease, the most common inflammatory bowel disease, affects roughly three out of every 1,000 people in the United States. Symptoms of Crohn’s disease include chronic, debilitating stomach pain and diarrhea, among other symptoms.

Current methods for diagnosis of Crohn’s disease include expensive medical imaging such as MRIs, biopsies and cataloging of symptoms.

In an effort to improve diagnosis techniques, a team of researchers from ASU has identified several biomarkers or molecules that were unique to patients with Crohn’s disease as potential targets for diagnosis and treatment.

“If we are going to truly alter the natural history of Crohn’s disease and help people, we needed to develop a new test for early, accurate diagnosis, as well as administering appropriate therapy,” Josh LaBaer, interim executive director at the ASU Biodesign Institute, said in a press release. “We are particularly excited about the links between the immune response against self proteins and Crohn’s disease, as this may give physicians a new avenue to explore both the potential cause and treatments.”

LaBaer and his team used immunoproteomics to look at all the immune system proteins in the blood of 48 patients with Crohn’s and compared them with healthy participants.

The researchers identified several candidate biomarkers of the immune system, called autoantibodies, based on having a sensitivity of higher than 15 percent. They then used the best of the samples to create a biomarker panel to make their test more accurate.

“There has been increasing evidence that suggests the Crohn’s disease immune response may be a result of altered microbes in the gut or exposure to harmful toxins that will result in antibodies against microbial and human proteins being made that are very specific manifestation of the disease,” said Ji Qiu, a researcher at Biodesign Institute. “Many blood-based biomarkers have been discovered, but currently commercially available blood tests have not been widely adapted into clinical practice because they fail to accurately diagnose Crohn’s disease.”

Researchers found the strongest biomarker indicators were for bacterial flagellin antibodies, which showed the strongest reactivity and highest prevalence. A new biomarker identified was the antibody against SNRPB, which plays a role in making proteins. SNRPB has also been reported in Lupus patients and is known as the Smith antigen.

“Ultimately, we know that no single biomarker is going to be predictive and meet clinical needs,” LaBaer said. “Only a panel of biomarkers, made of individually validated biomarkers, will achieve the best performance in the clinic. But we are excited about the potential of this immunoproteomics approach for Crohn’s disease and will work to discover additional biomarkers.”

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