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Single-Cell Analysis of Crohn’s Disease Lesions Identifies a Pathogenic Cellular Module Associated with Resistance to Anti-TNF Therapy

Clinical benefits of cytokine blockade in ileal Crohn’s disease (iCD) are limited to a subset of patients. Here, we applied single-cell technologies to iCD lesions to address whether cellular heterogeneity contributes to treatment resistance. We found that a subset of patients expressed a unique cellular module in inflamed tissues that consisted of IgG plasma cells, inflammatory mononuclear phagocytes, activated T cells, and stromal cells, which we named the GIMATS module. Analysis of ligand-receptor interaction pairs identified a distinct network connectivity that likely drives the GIMATS module. Strikingly, the GIMATS module was also present in a subset of patients in four independent iCD cohorts (n = 441), and its presence at diagnosis correlated with failure to achieve durable corticosteroid-free remission upon anti-TNF therapy. These results emphasize the limitations of current diagnostic assays and the potential for single-cell mapping tools to identify novel biomarkers of treatment response and tailored therapeutic opportunities.