Developing a lab-grown gut model of strictures

Strictures are a major challenge in Crohn’s Disease treatment. We need better lab models so we can find out why strictures develop, and test whether new medicines can stop strictures developing.

Dr Laween Meran, Francis Crick Institute & University of Oxford

What this research is looking at 

Some people with Crohn’s Disease develop strictures. Strictures happen when ongoing inflammation in the gut wall causes scar tissue to form. This can create a narrow section of the gut known as a stricture. Strictures can also be caused by severe inflammation alone. They can also be caused by a combination of scar tissue and severe inflammation. A stricture can make it difficult for food to pass through and, if it’s very narrow, cause a blockage.

Strictures are difficult to manage in people with Crohn’s because:

  • Strictures are often diagnosed at a late stage – when someone has already developed a blockage.
  • Surgery (sometimes multiple times) is often needed to remove the stricture.
  • Current medicines are not very good at preventing strictures. And there are no medicines that can reverse the scarring in the bowel.
  • New medicines are tested in animal models of Crohn’s. Animal models of Crohn’s do not usually develop strictures. So when new medicines are being developed, they can’t be tested on whether they can prevent or treat strictures.

In this research project, Dr Laween Meran will build a 3D lab-grown gut model of strictures. She will do this using gut cells from people with strictures. This will create a better model of what is happening in people with Crohn’s who develop strictures.

What the researchers think this could mean for people with Crohn's 

There are currently no good lab or animal models that allow researchers to study strictures. Dr Meran’s lab-grown gut will give researchers a new tool to better understand how strictures develop. It could help researchers find red flags (biomarkers) that would identify people at risk of developing a stricture at a much earlier stage. The model could also be used to test new medicines, to see if they can stop strictures from developing.


Who is leading this research: Dr Laween Meran, Francis Crick Institute & University of Oxford
Our Funding: £99,914.07 
Duration: 36 months 
Official title of application: Gut-on-a-chip: building next generation tools to model IBD for patient stratification


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