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Genetics of gallstone disease.

BACKGROUND: Gallstone disease (GD) belongs to the most frequent disorders in gastroenterology and causes high costs in our health-care systems. Gallstones are uncommon in children but frequent in adults, in particular in women, and are triggered by exogenous risk factors. Here, we summarize the current knowledge concerning the contribution of inherited predisposition to gallstone risk.

DESIGN: In this review, we present the current data and recent research on the genetics of gallstone disease.

RESULTS: Several GD-predisposing gene variants have been reported, with most prominent effects being conferred by a common variant (p.D19H) of the hepatic and intestinal cholesterol transporter ABCG5/G8. A smaller group of patients might develop gallstones primarily due low phosphatidylcholine concentrations in bile as a result of loss-of-function mutations of the ABCB4 transporter (low phospholipid-associated cholelithiasis syndrome). Regardless of the origin, the risk factors for gallstones lead to the supersaturation of bile with insoluble compounds, in particular cholesterol. As result, cholesterol stones develop and present the most frequent type of gallstones. Laparoscopic cholecystectomy with low morbidity and mortality is currently the most common and effective method for the therapy of symptomatic gallbladder stones.

CONCLUSIONS: Gallstone disease represents a multifactorial condition and previous studies have identified the major genetic contributors to gallstone formation. The increasing knowledge about the pathomechanisms of hepatobiliary metabolism and GD as well as the identification of additional risk factors might help to overcome the current invasive therapy by specific lifestyle intervention and precise molecular treatment.

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