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J Gastroenterol. 2007 Jan;42(1):16-25. Epub 2007 Feb 16.

Inflammatory bowel disease: past, present, and future.

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MGH Crohn's and Colitis Center and Gastrointestinal Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, 165 Cambridge Street, 9th Floor, Boston, MA 02114, USA.


Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, collectively known as the inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), are largely diseases of the twentieth century, and are associated with the rise of modern, Westernized industrial society. Although the causes of these diseases remain incompletely understood, the prevailing model is that the intestinal flora drives an unmitigated intestinal immune response and inflammation in the genetically susceptible host. A review of the past and present of these diseases shows that detailed description preceded more fundamental elucidation of the disease processes. Working out the details of disease pathogenesis, in turn, has yielded dividends in more focused and effective therapy for IBD. This article highlights the key descriptions of the past, and the pivotal findings of current studies in disease pathogenesis and its connection to medical therapy. Future directions in the IBD will likely explicate the inhomogeneous causes of these diseases, with implications for individualized therapy.

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