Irish university researchers have claimed a major breakthrough in the battle against Crohn’s and other colon diseases.

The Irish Independent newspaper reports on the breakthrough at Maynooth University in County Kildare.

Professor Paul Moynagh led the research team at Maynooth who have discovered what they describe as a crucial role for protein in controlling unwanted inflammation in the intestine.

The professional said the identification of the protein Pellino3 may protect against the development of the incurable Crohn’s disease.

He told the paper: “My hope is that we can build on these findings and use Pellino3 as a new diagnostic for Crohn’s disease and as a target for new drug discovery.

“Our aim at NUI Maynooth is to progress this research even further and we look forward to further advancements in the area of immunology in years to come.”

Head of the Department of Biology and Director of the Institute of Immunology at the university, Professor Moynagh added that the research represents a significant breakthrough.

His team discovered that levels of Pellino3 are dramatically reduced in Crohn’s disease patients.

The Irish Independent reports that they will now use the protein as a basis for new diagnostic for Crohn’s and as a target in designing drugs to treat the illness.

The report says more than two million people across Europe suffer from some form of  inflammatory colon disease.

Inflammation is the body’s response to disease-causing micro-organisms, which involves the movement of white blood cells from vessels in the infected tissue where invading micro-organisms are destroyed.

The report adds this can result in chronic inflammatory diseases with the symptoms of the diseases being dependent on the inflammation area.

When chronic inflammation occurs in the intestine, this can lead to inflammatory colon diseases. Crohn’s disease is a particularly debilitating strand of this.

The research was supported by collaborators in Trinity College Dublin and University College Cork. The finds have been accepted and published in the Nature Immunology journal.

NUI Maynooth president Professor Philip Nolan told the paper that research is about finding answers and solutions to major challenges.

He said: “Immunology is an area of strength for Ireland and developments such as this will cement our position as one of the world’s leading nations in this field.

“The findings by Prof Moynagh and his team have the potential to impact positively on many lives.”