Ulcerative colitis is a chronic and painful condition caused by out of control inflammation. Patients with ulcerative colitis develop ulcers and internal injuries in their colon and rectum lining. These injuries are caused by the infiltration of T-cells in the colon, which set off an inflammatory chain of effects. Therefore, ulcerative colitis falls firmly within the spectrum of autoimmune diseases.
Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis
The most common symptom of ulcerative colitis is the presence of blood in stool. In addition, patients with ulcerative colitis often experience chronic mucous-like diarrhea, often for weeks on end.
Other symptoms include:
- Tenesmus (an urgent desire to pass stool, but with little actual defecation)
- Fecal incontinence
- Weight loss
- Iron-deficiency anemia
- Aphthous ulcers in the mouth
Traditional Treatment of Ulcerative Colitis
Ulcerative colitis is usually treated with similar medication as inflammatory bowel disease. Some of the most common medications used include 5-aminosalicylates, administered either orally or rectally (as an enema or suppository).
Other times, corticosteroids such as prednisone and budesonide are used to control inflammation more effectively. These may be used in combination with immunosuppressive agents like Imuran (Azathioprine), or cyclosporine. Sometimes, additional drugs are used to neutralize Tumor Necrotic Factor, a toxic compound responsible for setting off flare-ups of the disease.
Finally, sections of damaged colon tissue can also be removed surgically as a last resort.
Treatments with Mesenchymal Stem Cells for Ulcerative Colitis
Patients who have suffered extensive damage to their colon are usually recommended surgical removal. However, a much safer and simpler alternative can be granted by the use of autologous mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) derived from a patient’s bone marrow or fat tissue. If these are not available, it is also possible to use MSCs derived from placenta and cord tissue of unrelated donors.
The possible use of MSC-derived nanoparticles, exosomes, or extracellular vesicles instead of the direct use of MSCs is also currently being investigated. While it remains possible in theory, this is yet to be tested.
Mesenchymal stem cells may also be used to regenerate existing damage caused by the inflammatory reaction.