Research supports promise of cell therapy for bowel disease

February 28, 2013

Researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and colleagues have identified a special population of adult stem cells in bone marrow that have the natural ability to migrate to the intestine and produce intestinal cells, suggesting their potential to restore healthy tissue in patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Up to 1 million Americans have IBD, which is characterized by frequent diarrhea and abdominal pain. IBD actually refers to two conditions – and Crohn's disease – in which the intestines become red and swollen and develop ulcers, probably as the result of the body having an immune response to its own tissue.

While there is currently no cure for IBD, there are aimed at reducing inflammation and preventing the immune response. Because these therapies aren't always effective, scientists hope to use stem cells to develop an injectable cell therapy to treat IBD.

The research findings are reported online in the (the journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology) by senior researcher Graca Almeida-Porada, M.D., Ph.D., professor of regenerative medicine at Wake Forest Baptist's Institute for Regenerative Medicine, and colleagues.

The new research complements a 2012 report by Almeida-Porada's team that identified stem cells in cord blood that are involved in and also have the ability to migrate to the intestine.

"We've identified two populations of that migrate to the intestine – one involved in blood vessel formation and the other that can replenish and modulates inflammation," said Almeida-Porada. "Our hope is that a mixture of these cells could be used as an injectable therapy to treat IBD."

The cells would theoretically induce tissue recovery by contributing to a pool of cells within the intestine. The lining of the intestine has one of the highest cellular turnover rates in the body, with all cell types being renewed weekly from this pool of cells, located in an area of the intestine known as the crypt.

In the current study, the team used cell markers to identify a population of stem cells in human bone marrow with the highest potential to migrate to the intestine and thrive. The cells express high levels of a receptor (ephrin type B) that is involved in tissue repair and wound closure.

The cells also known to modulate inflammation were injected into fetal sheep at 55 to 62 days gestation. At 75 days post-gestation, the researchers found that most of the transplanted cells were positioned in the crypt area, replenishing the stem cells in the intestine.

"Previous studies in animals have shown that the transplantation of bone-marrow-derived cells can contribute to the regeneration of the gastrointestinal tract in IBD," said Almeida-Porada. "However, only small numbers of cells were successfully transplanted using this method. Our goal with the current study was to identify populations of cells that naturally migrate to the intestine and have the intrinsic ability to restore tissue health."

Almeida-Porada said that while the two studies show that the cells can migrate to and survive in a healthy intestine, the next step will be to determine whether they can survive in an inflamed .

Explore further: Scientists develop a new approach to treating autoimmune disease

Related Stories

The making of an intestinal stem cell

March 5, 2009

Researchers have found the factor that makes the difference between a stem cell in the intestine and any other cell. The discovery reported in the March 6th issue of the journal Cell, a Cell Press publication, is an essential ...

Attacking bowel cancer on two fronts

March 31, 2011

Stem cells in the intestine, which when they mutate can lead to bowel cancers, might also be grown into transplant tissues to combat the effects of those same cancers, the UK National Stem Cell Network (UKNSCN) annual science ...

Research suggests promise of cell therapy for bowel disease

September 19, 2012

New research shows that a special population of stem cells found in cord blood has the innate ability to migrate to the intestine and contribute to the cell population there, suggesting the cells' potential to treat inflammatory ...

Recommended for you

New method creates endless supply of kidney precursor cells

August 25, 2016

Salk Institute scientists have discovered the holy grail of endless youthfulness—at least when it comes to one type of human kidney precursor cell. Previous attempts to maintain cultures of the so-called nephron progenitor ...

Strict diet combats rare progeria aging disorders

August 25, 2016

Mice with a severe aging disease live three times longer if they eat thirty percent less. Moreover, they age much healthier than mice that eat as much as they want. These are findings of a joint study being published today ...

New avenue for understanding cause of common diseases

August 25, 2016

A ground-breaking Auckland study could lead to discoveries about many common diseases such as diabetes, cancer and dementia. The new finding could also illuminate the broader role of the enigmatic mitochondria in human development.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.