The ASTIC trial investigated methods to harness stem cell medicine for Crohn’s patients for whom existing treatments were not working and whose quality of life as a result was very poor.

The results of the trial were mixed, with benefits to patients in terms of living free from their active disease being balanced by a number of serious problems, including infections.

This study aims to build on the results of the ASTIC trial to investigate whether microRNA (miRNA) may help doctors to predict how a patient will respond to transplantation.

The research team

The project is being led jointly by Dr James Lindsay and Professor Andy Silver. Dr Lindsay leads the Clinical Inflammatory Bowel Disease Research Group and Professor Silver heads the Colorectal Cancer Genetics Group. The IBD unit at Barts is one of the largest in the country and cares for 3,500 adults, 500 adolescents and 300 children.

Why study stem cell transplantation in Crohn’s disease?

Crohn’s disease affects about 1 in 400 people and its prevalence is on the increase. It is a chronic inflammatory condition for which there is currently no medical or surgical cure. It can affect anyone at any time in life and can be very difficult, painful and distressing to live with. Managing the condition often means regular hospital stays and for a proportion of Crohn’s patients current treatments are not effective.

Autologous stem cell transplantation takes stem cells harvested from the individual themselves. This cell transplantation has been shown through the ASTIC trial to be effective for a proportion of this group of people, but it does have side effects. Moving forward to find the likelihood of an individual reacting well or poorly, so personalising their care would have enormous benefits for future sufferers.