Crohn’s disease is a type of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). It is a chronic and debilitating condition, caused by inflammation of the cells in the digestive system. This can affect different parts of the digestive tract, but it most commonly affects the bowels and small intestine.
Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease
The exact symptoms of Crohn’s disease, as well as its severity, will depend on the parts of the small intestine affected. The most common symptoms include chronic diarrhoea, recurrent fever, and chronic fatigue. It can also produce severe cramps, mouth sores, weight loss, and the presence of occult blood in faecal matter.
Traditional treatment and Management of Crohn’s Disease
Usually, Crohn’s disease and other inflammatory bowel diseases are treated with a combination of corticosteroids and other anti-inflammatory agents. In severe cases, immunosuppressive agents can be used alongside drugs to block TNF (tumor necrosis factor, a toxic inducer of inflammation). Indeed, TNF inhibitors are frequently indicated for control of active and resistant Crohn’s disease although such treatment may be associated with side effects.
As the disease progresses, permanent damage to the ileum or the colon may make surgery unavoidable resulting in colostomy or ileostomy if necessary. In the event of serious intestinal bleeding, or if the inflammation gets augmented by an opportunistic infection, it may be necessary to surgically remove the entire portion of the damaged intestine.
Mesenchymal Stromal Cell Therapy for Crohn’s Disease
Many patients with Crohn’s disease respond well to the use of autologous mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) which in our opinion is much safer than treatment with available TNF inhibitors. These can be derived either from the patient’s own bone marrow or obtained by liposuction from the patient’s fat tissue. Another alternative is to use MSCs enriched from the placenta or cord tissue of a related (if available) or unrelated newborn baby of a consenting mother.
A more efficient alternative in the works is the potential use of MSC-derived nanoparticles, exosomes, or extracellular vesicles. These are expected to contain most (if not all) of the therapeutic elements that are secreted by intact MSCs, thus opening the possibility of adding potent and safe anti-inflammatory effects to the treatment program. However, the potential benefits using exosomes in this setting need to be confirmed by additional studies. MSCs may possibly also be used to repair or possibly even regenerate tissue damage caused by the disease.