Stem cell transplant in inflammatory bowel disease: a promising modality of treatment for a complicated disease course
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a complex, relapsing and remitting, disease characterized by an exaggerated immune response in a susceptible host. The symptoms and complications of the disease can be debilitating. Advances in medical treatment in the last decade changed the course of the disease in many patients. Despite the use of novel agents for controlling disease, a proportion of patients’ disease courses continue to be either refractory, or become resistant, to available therapeutic options. Stem-cell therapy, with hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) or mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), is a promising modality of treatment for severe refractory cases, mainly Crohn’s disease (CD) patients. HSCs have the ability to migrate to damaged tissue, which provides them with further properties to differentiate to epithelial or immune-modulatory cells to restore normal mucosal tissue and integrity. MSCs therapy is a promising model for patients with perianal CD due to their immunosuppressive properties, ability to migrate to areas of injury, and demonstration of colonic healing, including fistulizing tracts. The results from ongoing clinical trials will provide a valuable understanding of the future of stem-cell therapy as a treatment option in refractory cases of IBD, a disease whose pathogenesis remains unknown, and is notoriously difficult to treat.