Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, collectively known as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), are chronic conditions that typically emerge early in life and exact a heavy and costly burden of disability and illness over time. In 1998, physicians and researchers at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and Penn State College of Medicine made a long-term commitment to investigating the causes of IBD as a means toward identifying novel therapeutic targets and improving patient care. This has involved establishing and growing the area’s first IBD-dedicated BioBank. Today, the IBD BioBank consists of three inter-related components: an IBD patient registry that characterizes the clinical factors that define subcategories of IBD; a DNA bank derived from patient leukocytes immortalized by viral transformation; and an IBD tissue library, harvested at the time of surgery.
Walter A. Koltun, M.D., explains, “Because about 25 percent of patients with IBD have a family history of the disease, a crucial starting point for the IBD BioBank was to establish a patient registry to gather medical and demographic data not only from IBD patients but also their family members. Since beginning this work in 1998, we now have nearly 1,400 patients, some with three generations of family members entered into the registry. This is a powerful tool for investigating not only the genetic basis of the disease but also environmental, microbiological and epigenetic IBD risk factors.”