Scientists (finally!) identified the genes that may impact both IBS and mental health disorders

An international research team from more than 40 leading institutions looked at genetic data of 40,548 people with IBS and compared them to 433,201 people without IBS. They then repeated the data review with a genomic company, 23andMe, comparing those with IBS to more than 1.3 million individuals. The results? It seems that IBS symptoms may be caused by the same biological processes that lead to mental health disorders.

The study showed there are six genes that are common in people with the digestive disorder — NCAM1, CADM2, PHF2/FAM120A, DOCK9, CKAP2/TPTE2P3, and BAG6. To date, this is the largest study pinpointing the genetic map for IBS. Researchers have discovered that this same genetic make-up also increases the risk for common mood and anxiety disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and neuroticism. While not a mood disorder, they noted the same genes also link to insomnia.

“Our study shows these conditions have shared genetic origins, with the affected genes possibly leading to physical changes in brain or nerve cells that in turn cause symptoms in the brain and symptoms in the gut,” said Professor Miles Parkes from the University of Cambridge in an article. Parkes is the study co-senior investigator and consultant gastroenterologist.

This research highlights the close relationship between brain and gut health and paves the way for development of new treatments. Future studies will build on these discoveries, both by investigating the target genes identified and exploring the shared genetic risk factors across various conditions.