Reducing flares in Ulcerative Colitis by blocking immune cells



We hope to reduce flares in Ulcerative Colitis by blocking the immune cells which are causing the inflammation and tissue damage

Professor Jo Spencer, Kings College, London 

What did this research look at?

Inflammation in the gut of people with Ulcerative Colitis is caused by over activity of immune cells that produce damaging factors called cytokines. These cells are found in connective tissue in the lining of the gut known as the lamina propria.

To reduce inflammation current biologic therapies available act by either:

  • blocking the activity of cytokines in the gut (infliximab) or
  • blocking the entry of the cells that produce cytokines (Vedolizumab).

Cells that make cytokines are produced in Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissue (GALT). These cells then enter the blood and are taken to the gut where they lodge in the mucosa. In a healthy system the number of cells produced is well controlled and regulated. But in Ulcerative Colitis there are more cells that produce cytokines in the lining of the gut.

This study aimed to find out if this is due to a defect in the GALT where immune cells are made.  The investigators used biopsies from people with Ulcerative Colitis and compared these to people without IBD.


The study found extreme differences between the GALT of people with Ulcerative Colitis and those without the condition. They identified the type of immune cells (B Cells) that migrate from the blood to the gut in people with Colitis and identified differences in cells of the appendix.   

What do researchers think this could mean for people with IBD? 

Researchers hope that examining these results in further studies will allow them to identify targets for potential new treatments that can act when inflammation first begins. They also suggest that measuring the types of B cells in the blood could provide information on inflammation in the gut that may provide a diagnostic test for Ulcerative Colitis.

Who is leading this research:  Professor Jo Spencer, Kings College, London
Our Funding: £64,945
Duration: 12 months
Grant reference: M2017-4
Official title of application: Aberrant intestinal immune induction driving inflammation in ulcerative colitis 
Tags: Ulcerative Colitis and cells