Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) are chronic inflammatory diseases of the gastrointestinal tract consisting of Crohn’s disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC). IBD is a dynamic, multifactorial disease of unknown etiology and it is believed that a combination of genetic and environmental factors play a major role in the development of the disease. IBD has seen a markedly increased incidence in the last few decades particularly in developed countries, suggesting the potential importance of environmental/epigenetic alterations. Even though genome wide association studies (GWAS) revealed 163 IBD susceptibility loci, the variance in disease risk remains poorly explained. Interestingly, the GWAS signals are significantly enriched in regulatory areas with various epigenetic marks. Taken together all these information suggests the importance of epigenetic alterations in IBD pathogenesis.
Epigenetics are heritable changes in gene activity and expression that occur without alteration in DNA sequence. DNA methylation, histone modifications, as well as non-coding RNA activity represent reversible epigenetic alterations, serving as potential targets for drug treatment. Our laboratory is interested in studying the role of these epigenetic alterations in IBD pathobiology and develop novel epigenetic drugs for IBD patients.