Stem Cells From Discarded Heart Tissue Could Treat Crohn’s Disease

Intestine Crohn’s Disease

Scientists discovered that neonatal mesenchymal stem cells from discarded heart tissue can reduce intestinal inflammation and enhance wound healing in a mouse model of Crohn’s disease-like ileitis. The study offers a promising treatment alternative that avoids the drawbacks of current medications.

Research found decreased intestinal inflammation and improved wound healing in a mouse model.

A study from the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago discovered that directly injecting neonatal mesenchymal stem cells, sourced from heart tissue usually discarded during surgery, reduces intestinal inflammation and promotes wound healing in a mouse model of Crohn’s disease-like ileitis, an illness marked by chronic intestinal inflammation and progressive tissue damage.

The study, published in the journal Advanced Therapeutics, offers a promising new and alternative treatment approach that avoids the pitfalls of current Crohn’s disease medications, including diminishing effectiveness, severe side effects and increased risk of gastrointestinal dysfunction.

“Neonatal cardiac-derived mesenchymal stem cells have been used  in a clinical trial to repair an injured heart, but this is the first time these potent cells have been studied in an inflammatory intestinal disease model,” said senior author Arun Sharma, PhD, from Stanley Manne Children’s Research Institute at Lurie Children’s who is the Director of Pediatric Urological Regenerative Medicine and Surgical Research, and Research Associate Professor of Urology and Biomedical Engineering at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and the McCormick School of Engineering, Northwestern University. “Our results are encouraging and definitely provide a new platform to potentially treat aspects of chronic inflammatory bowel diseases.”  

Dr. Sharma explains that before it would be feasible to use these stem cells clinically to treat Crohn’s disease, his team needs to overcome the hurdle of how they are administered. In the current animal model study, the stem cells were injected directly into the inflammatory lesions in the small intestine, which requires surgical procedures. The next step then is to develop a safe way to inject them into the body through a vein, similar to performing a blood draw in the arm of a patient. More animal studies will be needed before this novel treatment approach can progress to clinical trials.

“Ultimately our goal is to utilize this cell type as treatment, but also as a preventive measure, before signs and symptoms of Crohn’s disease develop,” said Dr. Sharma. “We also might be able to apply this approach to other inflammatory diseases. The potential is enormous, and we are excited to move forward.”

Reference: “Multipotent Human Neonatal Cardiac-Derived Mesenchymal Stem Cells Modulate Ileitis In Vivo” by Muthukumar Gunasekaran, Matthew I. Bury, Tiffany T. Sharma, Larry W. Wang, Natalie J. Fuller, Swetha T. Krishnan, Sunjay Kaushal and Arun K. Sharma, 6 July 2023, Advanced Therapeutics.
DOI: 10.1002/adtp.202200261

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