The two main forms of inflammatory bowel disease are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Both are chronic diseases that cause inflammation of the digestive system.
Approximately 620,000 people in the UK are affected by inflammatory bowel disease according to the National Institute of Health.
With so many people living with IBD, scientists are constantly looking for new ways to treat symptoms and causes. Fortunately, they are finding more reasons to be hopeful for new treatments, this time in the form of regenerative medicine and newborn stem cells from cord tissue.
Why cord tissue stem cells?
One of the many benefits of the mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) present in cord tissue is their ability to respond to inflammation and help repair tissue damage. And since IBD is characterized by chronic inflammation, cord tissue stem cells are a great candidate for research.
This recent study, titled “Mechanism and therapeutic effect of umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cells in inflammatory bowel disease,” was able to explain several ways cord tissue stem cells might help improve symptoms of IBD.
This study showed that, at the cellular level, the presence of the stem cells increased or decreased the expression of certain proteins that control mechanisms that can:
- Reduce bowel and intestinal wall permeability that causes inflammation
- Decrease cell destruction of the bowel/intestinal wall
- Increase blood vessel formation, which can facilitate intestinal tissue repair
However, there’s a long way to go before MSCs can be used as part of a treatment.
First, this study was performed on mice—which is only a precursor to a clinical trial with humans. Second, scientists need more answers to basic questions surrounding the mechanisms which help stem cells work as they’re introduced to the body, as well as how different stem cell sources may vary in their therapeutic effects.
But articles like this one help add yet another small piece to the regenerative medicine puzzle. Looks like IBD could one day join the ranks of autism, hearing loss, and hypoplastic left heart syndrome in conditions being researched with newborn stem cells!
If you have any more queries about Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) please visit the UK’s leading charity for Crohn’s and Colitis: Crohn’s & Colitis UK.
Wei X, Yang X, Han Z, Qu F, Shao L, Shi Y. Mesenchymal stem cells: a new trend for cell therapy. Acta Pharmacologica Sinica. 2013;34(6):747-754. doi:10.1038/aps.2013.50.