Stem Cells Offer a Potential Treatment for Crohn’s Disease

Fecal incontinence and accidental bowel leakage can cause incredibly awkward social situations. Patients who suffer from these issues might initially manage to hide the problem, but no one wants to simply accept having decreased control over their bowel movements. When digestive problems are caused by chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, the condition is often diagnosed as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). New developments in stem cell therapy offer relief to those suffering from IBDs.

Crohn’s Disease

A type of inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, affects half a million people in North America. The disease may affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract, but it most often occurs in the terminal small bowel and the colon—hence it’s other name, “terminal ileitis.” Symptoms include abdominal pain, vomiting, weight loss, and bloody diarrhea. A patient may also experience arthritis and skin rashes. Crohn’s disease is a type of auto-immune disease in which the body’s own immune system attacks parts of the gastrointestinal tract.

Treatment for Crohn’s Disease

Treatment options for Crohn’s disease include the use of medication to suppress the immune system’s inflammatory response. As Crohn’s disease can result in a reduced appetite, and diarrhea can make it harder for your body to absorb nutrients, it becomes necessary to closely monitor your diet and nutrition. While Crohn’s disease is not caused by dietary problems, many patients find that avoiding spicy and high-fiber foods can reduce some of the discomfort.

Surgery as Treatment

About 70% of patients with Crohn’s disease will eventually require surgery, either because their medication has failed to control their symptoms or because a fissure, fistula, or internal obstruction has developed. The required surgical procedure generally involves a resection or removal of the affected segment of the bowel. The healthy ends are then connected to each other. Surgery can take care of symptoms for many years; however, it is not considered a cure, as symptoms return within ten years for 60% of patients within 10 years of having surgery.

Stem Cell Therapy

Ongoing research shows positive results from auto-immune disease treatments with stem cells. According to the Journal of Translational Research, “…non-expanded SVF cells have been used successfully in accelerating healing of Crohn’s fistulas.” Stromal vascular fraction (SVF) stem cells can easily be obtained through an outpatient procedure, which is in reality a mini-liposuction. SVF is extracted from the fatty tissue and injected into the body. The entire process takes no more than three hours and is performed on an outpatient basis at our facility in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.

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