Neonatal Stem Cells from the Heart Could Treat Crohn’s Disease
Study found reduced intestinal inflammation and wound healing in a mouse model
Research from Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago found that direct injection of neonatal mesenchymal stem cells, derived from heart tissue 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.”
Research at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago is conducted through Stanley Manne Children’s Research Institute. The Manne Research Institute is focused on improving child health, transforming pediatric medicine and ensuring healthier futures through the relentless pursuit of knowledge. Lurie Children’s is a nonprofit organization committed to providing access to exceptional care for every child. It is ranked as one of the nation’s top children’s hospitals by U.S. News & World Report. Lurie Children’s is the pediatric training ground for Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.