The discovery is also a step in the direction of personalized medicine. "By looking at genetic profiles, we may be able to tell what is the appropriate therapy for each person," says study co-author Robert Baldassano, director of the Center for Pediatric Inflammatory Bowel Disease at Children's Hospital. Genetic tests could one day indicate if patients are predisposed to high levels of TNF—possibly associated with the newly identified receptor gene variant—helping to identify patients that will respond to antibody therapy.
Stefan Schreiber, director of clinical molecular biology at Christian-Albrechts-University in Kiel, Germany, believes that the study is a mandate for revamping the development of effective treatments. Although the disease may look the same to physicians treating children and adults, the underlying genetics can clearly be different, Schreiber says, and "researchers should not anticipate that children will react to therapy like adults."
Ultimately, the study goes beyond just adding two more genes to the list of IBD risk factors. It also brings new hope for developing novel treatments and highlights the need to identify IBD sufferers who will benefit most.