Crohn’s Disease is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that can affect the whole gastrointestinal tract or only certain parts of it. The disease causes painful diarrhea. It presents itself in the young adulthood and affects approximately 7 out of 100,000 people.
The cause of Crohn’s disease is still unknown. Genetic disposition and different triggers like increased use of antibiotics during childhood are supposedly causes of the disease. In some Crohn’s disease patients special autoantibodies have been found, which get produced by the body. The autoantibodies can attack the body’s own cells and lead to Crohn’s disease and other inflammatory diseases. Therefore some therapies involve the application of medication that suppresses the patient’s own immune system.
Symptoms and Progression of Crohn’s Disease
At the beginning of the inflammatory disease unspecific symptoms like fatigue, stomach ache, joint pain, fever, nausea, and emesis occur. An important sign is the occurrence of mostly watery diarrhea. If the disease has already exposed deeper tissues of the intestinal mucosa, they can be bloody. As a result of the blood loss in the intestinal tract, anemia appears. Unpleasant anal lesions, fistulas in the area of the buttocks, and anal fissures can be caused by Crohn’s disease. In rare cases the lesions of the intestinal tract can lead to colon cancer.
The disease proceeds in acute flares, thereby complications like acute intestinal obstructions can appear. In this case surgery is necessary. But Crohn’s disease does not only attack the gastro-intestinal tract. There are often lesions in other parts of the body that can reference to the gastro-intestinal disease. Painful changes of the oral mucosa and vessels as well as joint and eye inflammation can appear at the same time.
Therapy of Crohn’s Disease
Because the causes of Crohn’s disease are mostly unknown, a specific therapy to cure the disease isn’t possible at this time. The therapy targets at abatement of the disorders and an improvement of the quality of life.
In general, patients are not allowed to smoke because nicotine increases the risk of acute flares. Besides certain pain relievers, which count to the group of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID), like Aspirin, should not be taken by Crohn’s disease patients because this kind of drugs has an irritating effect on the mucosa. Also a dietary change to protect the bowel can be necessary.
Subsequently, a gradual therapy, depending on the areas affected, is applied. In case of an acute flare anti-inflammatory drugs, mostly glucocorticoids or immunosuppressive drugs, are used. In cases of difficult complications like stenosis or fistulas surgery can be necessary.
Stem Cell Therapy of Crohn’s Disease
Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSC) or Stromal Vascular Fraction (SVF) can be used for the therapy of gastro-intestinal diseases like Crohn’s disease. Stem cells are considered as progenitor cells of other cells of the body. They primarily modulate the immune system and stimulate the regeneration of tissues and blood vessels by cytokines. Because of the faulty immune response and the inflammatory component that are present in Crohn’s disease, the use of mesenchymal stem cell poses an opportunity to treat the disease.
Mesenchymal stem cells are isolated from a small amount of body fat, which gets extracted by means of liposuction. Afterwards the stem cells are applied systemically so they can be transported to the places in the body where they are needed. Because they have an immunomodulating and anti-inflammatory effect, the progression of the disease can potentially be decelerated and further acute flares can possibly be prevented. Stem cells from body fat have already proven well in studies with mice suffering from Crohn’s disease. Promising results have also been achieved in humans affected by inflammatory bowel diseases.