Crohn’s disease
Prof. Graham Lord

Crohn's disease

Guts UK is proud to announce that we will fund Prof. Graham Lord and the team at Guy’s and St Thomas’ research into Crohn’s disease. We will award the team £43,336.

What is Crohn’s disease?

In those with Crohn’s disease, your immune system can attack any part of the digestive system which causes inflammation and serious complications. Crohn’s affects around 1 in 650 people in the UK and the rate at which it is diagnosed seems to be increasing, especially among young people. Up to a third of patients do not respond fully to treatment and develop complications.

What do we know already?

Prof. Lord and his team are hoping to expand knowledge surrounding immune cells called T cells. They will look at two types of T cells: regulatory T cells (Tregs) and effector T cells (Teffs). We know that:

  • Tregs suppress the immune response
  • Over-active Teffs cause inflammation

Therefore, it is thought that the balance between Teffs and Tregs is important to determine whether a person develops Crohn’s disease.

Prof. Lord’s previous research found that a genetic variation (called IL2RA) was found in around 10% of people with Crohn’s, and this gene seems to control the balance between Teff and Treg cells.

What does the research aim to do?

This study will collect blood samples from people with Crohn’s disease and people without. Some will carry the genetic variation (IL2RA) and others won’t. The team will extract Treg and Teff cells, measuring their characteristics and behaviour. Then, they will be able to compare behaviour in these cells between individuals who have the genetic variation and those who don’t.

During this research, the team will also use a molecule (an antibody called basiliximab) that can bind to Teff cells, to see if this can change the behaviour of these cells.

How could this benefit Crohn’s patients in the future?

This study has the potential to flag up a new treatment for patients with Crohn’s disease who have this genetic variation. If successful, researchers could take their findings to clinical trial as a potential new drug for Crohn’s disease.

“We are delighted to be supported by Guts UK. Although the last few years has seen more treatments become available for those with Crohn’s disease, many patients don’t respond fully. This project will enable us to understand why some patients with a genetic variation develop Crohn’s and it will pave the way for trials of a personalised treatment, helping patients get the right treatment for them the first time.”

The rate in which Crohn’s disease is diagnosed is increasing, particularly in young people. We don’t completely understand why yet. Guts UK’s research leads to earlier diagnosis, kinder treatments and ultimately, a cure. 

Guts UK is the only UK charity funding research into the digestive system from top to tail. Our research has the capacity to save lives. Your donations make it possible.Help the UK get to grips with guts by donating to Guts UK today.

Discover more:

> Timings & Scientific Title

Prof. Graham Lord • Guy’s & St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust • Awarded £43,336 from Guts UK

Timings: August 2020 – July 2022

Scientific title: Modulation of the effector/regulatory T-cell balance by targeting a causal genetic variant as a novel therapeutic paradigm in Crohn’s disease.