According to the CDC, an estimated 3.1 million adults (1.3%) in the United States have been diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which includes Crohn’s disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis.
Characterized by abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, and malnutrition, CD is thought to be the result of swelling and inflammation of the tissue of the digestive tract.
To date, there is not a clearly prescribed method for the treatment or prevention of CD. However, recently, researchers have found stem cells to be a promising treatment option, primarily for the observed ability to regulate immunity, repair injury, and control inflammation.
Building on the positive findings of previous studies that have used autologous stem cells or adipose-derived stem cells to treat CD and its associated complications, Zhang et al.’s randomized controlled clinical trial examines the use of umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cells (UC-MSCs) as a treatment for CD.
This study followed 82 patients who had been diagnosed with CD and had received steroid maintenance therapy for more than 6 months. Half of the participants were randomly assigned to receive a series of four peripheral intravenous infusions of UC-MCSs/kg administered over the course of a four-week period. Then, by using the Crohn’s disease activity index (CDAI) Harvey-Bradshaw Index (HBI), and corticosteroid dosage, participants in both the control and experimental group were followed up with over a 12-month period.
At the conclusion of this study, Zhang et al. found that the group receiving umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cells infusion experienced a significant decrease in the required dosage of corticosteroid dosage and a significant improvement in the overall condition of the patients. These findings led the authors to conclude that UC-MSCs can attenuate immune malfunction in patients with CD. Considering these findings, the authors suggest that the mechanisms of UC-MSC efficacy in CD be elucidated to better understand the precise selection of patients who receive this specific stem-cell treatment in the future.
The authors point out that, while the specific mechanisms of alleviating CD by UC-MSCs remain obscure, it is suggested that the downregulation of proinflammatory cytokines serves a beneficial role in the process.
The authors also raise concerns over the safety of the clinical application of stem cells in this application, highlighting conflicting findings as to the safety of the process. Considering the prevalence of stem cells’ ability to regulate and suppress immunity in other studies, Zhang et al. infer that the patient infections observed during their trial were associated with immunosuppression by stem cells.
While the study suggested that the peripheral infusion of UC-MSCs was convenient and safe, the authors point out that there was little distribution of UC-MSCs in the intestinal tissue and risk of cells being retained in the pulmonary capillaries. As a result, the authors call for future studies comparing the efficacy of interventional infusion into the inferior mesenteric artery to that of peripheral infusion. To know more about mesenchymal stem cell treatment for Crohn’s disease visit Stemedix website and read more related article.