New Research: Newborn stem cells may help with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

Newborn stem cells + IBD

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) affects approximately three million Americans. Characterized by chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (the two conditions that comprise IBD) can cause symptoms that include fatigue, abdominal pain, and persistent diarrhea.

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.1 And since IBD is characterized by chronic inflammation, cord tissue stem cells are a great candidate for research.

What did they find?

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: 

  1. Reduce bowel and intestinal wall permeability that causes inflammation
  2. Decrease cell destruction of the bowel/intestinal wall
  3. 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!

As always, we’ll keep you posted as research moves forward!

References: 1. 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.

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