Fecal transplant, stem cells may help Crohn's disease

Posted: April 11, 2015 at 4:49 am

Two experimental therapies might help manage the inflammatory bowel disorder Crohn's disease, if this early research pans out.

In one study, researchers found that a fecal transplant -- stool samples taken from a healthy donor -- seemed to send Crohn's symptoms into remission in seven of nine children treated.

In another, a separate research team showed that stem cells can have lasting benefits for a serious Crohn's complication called fistula.

According to the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation, up to 700,000 Americans have Crohn's -- a chronic inflammatory disease that causes abdominal cramps, diarrhea, constipation and rectal bleeding. It arises when the immune system mistakenly attacks the lining of the digestive tract.

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A number of drugs are available to treat Crohn's, including drugs called biologics, which block certain immune-system proteins.

But fecal transplants take a different approach, explained Dr. David Suskind, a gastroenterologist at Seattle Children's Hospital who led the new study.

Instead of suppressing the immune system, he said, the transplants alter the environment that the immune system is reacting against: the "microbiome," which refers to the trillions of bacteria that dwell in the gut.

Like the name implies, a fecal transplant involves transferring stool from a donor into a Crohn's patient's digestive tract. The idea is to change the bacterial composition of the gut, and hopefully quiet the inflammation that causes symptoms.

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Fecal transplant, stem cells may help Crohn's disease

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