The therapeutic landscape of IBD has undergone a dramatic transformation since the advent of biologic therapies, especially TNF inhibitors. However, 30% of patients are primary nonresponders to biologic therapy and secondary failures are frequent. Due to substantial progress in our understanding of the biology of regulatory T cells (Tregs) and in the pathways of homing to the gastrointestinal tract, novel cell-based therapies for IBD have become possible. For example, although a reductionist view, one could envisage IBD as an imbalance between the proinflammatory effectors (such as Th17 cells) and the anti-inflammatory regulators (like Tregs). Here we focus on the development of ex vivo and in vivo approaches to enhance Tregs in the gastrointestinal tract. Specifically, herein we highlight a recently concluded phase 1/2a clinical trial that investigated the safety and efficacy of a single injection of escalating doses of autologous ovalbumin-specific Tregs in patients with active Crohn's disease refractory to conventional therapy. This therapy was well tolerated and demonstrated dose-related efficacy. We also discuss the potential of directing Tregs derived through intranasal as well as epicutaneous immunization to the gastrointestinal tract by enhancing their gut homing signature and their potential to decrease gastrointestinal inflammation. Finally, the strengths and pitfalls of these new therapeutic approaches are discussed as we move forward in this largely uncharted territory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-66
Number of pages6
JournalDigestive Diseases
StatePublished - 25 Dec 2014


  • Crohn's disease
  • Gastrointestinal inflammation
  • Regulatory T cells


Dive into the research topics of 'Immune cell therapy in IBD'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this