Dr. Carolina Serena discovers a promising new lead in Crohn’s disease

28 de May de 2020

Crohn’s Disease is a chronic, or long-term, condition that causes inflammation of the digestive tract. Around 3.4 million people in Europe have this disease and 10 million worldwide. The chronic inflammation affects not only the digestive tract but also stem cells contained in fat around it, worsening the condition of the patient.

One of the most common therapies to treat Crohn’s disease is application of patients’ fat stem cells. In this line, researchers from the Pere Virgili Health Research Institute (IISPV), the Rovira i Virgili University (URV) and the Biomedical Research Center Network (CIBER in Spanish) for Diabetes and Associated Metabolic Diseases (CIBERDEM) have shown that these same fat stem cells play a non-innocent role in the disease treatment.

The results obtained from the European research project ECCO (European Crohn’s and Colitis Organization) led by Dr. Carolina Serena from the Diabetes and Associated Metabolic Diseases (DIAMET) were recently published in the prestigious journal Clinical Epigenetics. The results of the study proved that stem cells promote inflammation despite the patient showing signs of recovery. In part this behaviour is due to changes in the DNA from fat stem cells induced by Crohn’s disease itself. This new insight led to the conclusion that fat stem cells of the patient are unsuitable for use in therapy.

Dr. Serena remarks: “Understanding how Crohn’s disease alters the functionality of fat stem cells is crucial for the understanding of this disease pathophysiology, as well as to succeed with efficient therapy development. This type of research can only be performed in close collaboration between clinical researchers who are experts in Crohn’s disease and fundamental researchers“.

Crohn’s disease can occur at any age, however it is most often diagnosed in adolescents and adults between the ages of 20 and 30. Up to date, the exact causes of this disease are unknown and, although there are known treatments that allow to keep the disease under control, they are far from being considered definitive therapies.

The DIAMET stands out for having an extensive knowledge in this research area, investigating the role of fat stem cells in pathologies such as obesity and diabetes.

Article reference: Serena, C., Millan, M., Ejarque, M. et al. Adipose stem cells from patients with Crohn’s disease show a distinctive DNA methylation pattern. Clin Epigenet 12, 53 (2020).

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