Dr. Razvan Romanescu

Discovering genes involved in the co-development of psychiatric comorbidities in inflammatory bowel disease

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) affects 11,000 Manitobans. An estimated 40 per cent of people affected also have mental health disorders, including anxiety and depression, a rate that is significantly higher than in the general population.

The reason why both IBD and mental health disorders tend to appear together is unknown but thought to be related to genetics. Although there has been some success in understanding the genetic factors underlying each condition separately, understanding their co-appearance requires more powerful detection tools.

We propose a new statistical method that detects when a pair of genetic factors interact. It will also determine, how much having both factors increases the risk of an IBD patient developing mental health complications.

To discover these associations, we will use data from the UK Biobank, a large study from the United Kingdom of over 500,000 people. We will compare the genetics from participants affected by both IBD and mental health disorders with IBD patients without mental health complications, as well as with healthy controls.

To ensure the validity of our results, we will cross-check our findings in a similar cohort of patients from Manitoba. By identifying the genetic factors underlying complications in IBD, we can use these genetic factors to determine which IBD patients are at high risk of developing mental health disorders, leading to preventative measures or earlier treatment.