Stem Cells, Fecal Transplants Show Promise for Crohn's Disease

By Amy Norton HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, April 10, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- 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.

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.

And for most kids in the new study, it seemed to work. Within two weeks, seven of nine children were showing few to no Crohn's symptoms. Five were still in remission after 12 weeks, with no additional therapy, the researchers reported in a recent issue of the journal Inflammatory Bowel Diseases.

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Stem Cells, Fecal Transplants Show Promise for Crohn's Disease

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