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Stem cells could 'reset' immune system in Crohn's disease patients

Published on 08/08/18 at 11:29am
Image Credit: Vojtěch Dostál

A clinical trial led by researchers at Queen Mary University, London is looking into ways in which patients with Crohn’s disease could ‘grow’ a new immune system through the use of stem cell transplants.

The phase 3 clinical trial, named ASTIClite, is to be funded through a £2 million grant from the Medical research Council (MRC) and the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR).Patients will be recruited from London, Liverpool, Sheffield, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Nottingham and Oxford.

Recent studies have proved success in treating patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) through the use of stem cell therapies. The ASTIClite trial will investigate as to whether similar treatments may be able to treat gut inflammation in those suffering from Crohn’s disease.

Professor James Lindsay, Chief Investigator, and a consultant at Barts Health NHS Trust noted that: “Despite the introduction of new drugs, there are still many patients who don’t respond, or gradually lose response, to all available treatments. Although surgery with the formation of a stoma may be an option that allows patients to return to normal daily activities, it is not suitable in some and others may not want to consider this approach.”

He further stated: “We’re hoping that by completely resetting the patient’s immune system through a stem cell transplant, we might be able to radically alter the course of the disease. While it may not be a cure, it may allow some patients to finally respond to drugs which previously did not work.”

During the trial, patient’s immune systems will be ‘wiped out’ using hormone therapy and chemotherapy and then ‘reset’ using stem cells. This is intended to give the patient a ‘new’ immune system that would no longer react adversely towards the patient’s own gut.

Director of the NIHR Evaluation, Trials and Studies programmes, Professor Tom Walley explained that: “Stem cell therapies are an important, active and growing area of research with great potential. There are early findings showing a role for stem cells in replacing damaged tissue. In Crohn’s disease this approach could offer real benefits for the clinical care and long term health of patients.”  

Louis Goss

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