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The root of inflammation

One cause of chronic inflammation lies in the genes. The genetic information in a single cell contains around three billion building blocks. The specific sequence of building blocks constitutes the human being – it decides not only on blond or dark hair, but also on ill and healthy.

Chemically, the building blocks of the genetic material are deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), which occur in four different variations (A,C,G,T). The genetic information is encoded in the individual sequence of each nucleotide. However, it is also critical, when and how they are read. The genes determine what a protein looks like and where it occurs. In this way, a biochemical instruction is given, which decides on the hair color or even why some people age, to a large extent, healthy. 

When A, C, G and T make you ill

Certainly, the human being hasn’t dramatically changed his genome in the last centuries. Many gene variations that make him ill today have been there for thousands of years, but they didn’t make him ill. Such being the case, the dramatic increase in chronic inflammatory diseases can’t be explained by genetic dispositions alone. Rather, other factors must be added, such as changing environmental conditions, modern lifestyles and eating habits.

Preventing disease in advance

Since the genome, the human blueprint, was able to be completely decoded in 2001, the disease-causing genes of many inflammatory diseases (e.g. psoriasis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease) have now been identified. A few milliliters of blood are sufficient to extract the genetic material of humans and then analyse it. The researchers then search for which conspicuous genetic changes in patients frequently occur. The objective of the investigations is, through detailed understanding, to newly define the disease mechanisms. With this approach, the attempt is made to look more directed at the development of creative strategies for prevention instead of reacting to the aberrations in the body. In doing this, it should become possible to tailor the therapies to the genetic constitution of the individual patients.
In ongoing studies, the genetic material of many thousands of people will be meticulously analyzed and compared: old with young, ill with healthy. To accomplish this, blood and tissue samples of more than 130,000 people are already being stored at -80°C in the popgen biobank.

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