The presence of Vg4 T cells has been known to lower the likelihood of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) relapse. This discovery opens up a potential new avenue for IBD therapy and sheds light on its connection to colon cancer.
A collaborative effort by researchers from King’s College London, the Francis Crick Institute, and Guy’s & St. Thomas NHS Foundation Trust has identified a unique type of immune cell crucial for safeguarding and restoring healthy human gut immune cells.
Published in the Science journal, this study delves into a specific group of immune cells known as V-gamma-4 (Vg4) T cells. Building on prior research conducted by a team from King’s College London and the Francis Crick Institute that identified molecules that interact with these gut immune cells, this new study investigates whether the loss of this interaction impacts inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
The research team discovered that individuals with Crohn’s Disease who possess a rare gene severely restricting this interaction face a notably heightened risk of disease advancement and the development of severe complications. Furthermore, the researchers noted that among individuals whose IBD symptoms had improved, those with restored Vg4 T cell function had a lower likelihood of relapse compared to those without restoration.
Beyond its potential as a novel target for IBD treatment, this also implies that evaluating the status of Vg4 T cells could serve as a means to gauge disease progression. The next phase of this research will delve into both of these aspects.
“Treatments tend to focus on reducing inflammation, but despite improvements in therapy, relapse rates remain high. So, we need to start targeting other areas, such as repairing the gut barrier, and Vg4 T cells may offer a way to do this.” – Robin Dart, postdoctoral clinical research fellow in the School of Immunology & Microbial Sciences.
IBD, short for Inflammatory Bowel Disease, encompasses both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis—two presently untreatable conditions characterized by heightened gut inflammation that results in distressing symptoms such as pain and diarrhea. IBD affects approximately 1 in every 125 individuals in the UK and is on the rise.
Individuals grappling with IBD face an elevated risk of developing colorectal cancer, particularly when the disease remains unmanaged. The recently unearthed correlation between IBD and Vg4 T cells might shed light on one of the mechanisms linking IBD to colon cancer.
“The links between uncontrolled IBD and particularly severe forms of colon cancer aren’t well understood. It’s fascinating that Vg4 T cells that we have identified as missing in IBD, may also be the same as the gut γδ T cells also described as having profound potential to attack colon cancer cells. We think that defects in these cells could conceivably link the two diseases.” – Adrian Hayday, Professor of Immunobiology in the School of Immunology & Microbial Sciences.
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