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New stem cell transplant trial by Queen Mary’s may help cure pain of Crohn’s disease

PUBLISHED: 15:29 06 August 2018 | UPDATED: 15:29 06 August 2018

Researchers at Whitechapel  in study to find cure for Crohn's disease. Picture: Jorge Duarte Estevao

Researchers at Whitechapel in study to find cure for Crohn's disease. Picture: Jorge Duarte Estevao

Jorge Duarte Estevao

A clinical trial has begun by researchers at Whitechapel using stem cell transplants to grow new immune systems for people with untreatable Crohn’s disease.

Stem cell used in transplant trial with Crohn's disease patients. Picture: QMULStem cell used in transplant trial with Crohn's disease patients. Picture: QMUL

The £2m study led by Queen Mary University is recruiting patients around the country in search of a cure for the painful and chronic intestinal disease.

Helen Bartlett has already had a transplant after being in and out of hospital for 20 years.

“Living with Crohn’s is a daily struggle,” she said. “I’ve had operation after operation, drug after drug. It’s depressing and you just feel so low.

“I cannot describe how much better I feel since my transplant. I’m not in that constant pain.”

Queen Mary's Blizard research labs in Whitechapel. Picture: Morley von SternbergQueen Mary's Blizard research labs in Whitechapel. Picture: Morley von Sternberg

Crohn’s disease causes inflammation of the digestive system and results in diarrhoea, pain and extreme tiredness. Treatments include drugs to reduce inflammation, but surgery is often needed to remove the affected part of the bowel.

Queen Mary’s Prof James Lindsay, a Barts Health Trust consultant, said: “We’re hoping we might be able to alter the course of the disease by resetting the patient’s immune system through a stem cell transplant. It may not be a cure, but may allow some patients to respond to drugs which previously didn’t work.”

Stem cell transplants have been successful treating multiple sclerosis. This trial will see whether similar treatment could offer hope to those with Crohn’s disease.

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