Key immune cells may help prevent inflammatory bowel disease

A specific group of immune cells in the gut may play a key role in controlling the progression of Crohn’s disease.

Crohn’s disease is one of the two main forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which together affect around 1% of adults in the UK and US. However, Adrian Hayday of the Francis Crick Institute in London says little is known about the causes of the disease.

Immune cells in the gut are thought to play a role, Hayday said, especially a group of cells called gamma delta T cells.

He and his colleagues wanted to better understand what these cells in the gut of IBD patients look like compared to healthy gut patients. To do this, they took intestinal wall samples from 150 people who were undergoing colonoscopies, some of whom had IBD.

Crohn’s disease is a disease in which part of the digestive system becomes inflamed. Image credit: Science Photo Library/Alamy

They found that people with IBD typically had lower numbers of V-gamma-4 (Vg4) cells, a special subset of immune cells compared to people with healthy guts. Hayday says these cells are mainly found in the lining of the gut.

But this is not the case, and people with fewer Vg4 cells are more likely to develop IBD. Conversely, especially for patients with Crohn’s disease, the team found that people with fewer of these immune cells in their gut may develop more severe disease.

Among people in remission of Crohn’s disease, Vg4 cells were similar to those with healthy guts and were less likely to relapse within the next five years.

“These cells won’t stop you from contracting the disease, but they’ll give you a better response.” “It’s a bit like a vacuum cleaner: if you have a good vacuum cleaner, you have everything under control,” Hayday says. ”

It’s not clear why these cells appear to be depleted in IBD patients, he said, but they could serve as a biomarker to help doctors diagnose more specifically which type of IBD a person has.

“In the clinic, when a patient comes to me, there is no clear biomarker to tell us which drug can best treat them.” Robin Dart, a member of the research team and King’s College London, said the cells could help doctors determine whether a patient has IBD that is likely to recur. (Source: Li Huiyu, China Science News)

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