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Is Stem Cell Therapy Ready for Prime Time in Treatment of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases?

Christopher J. Hawkey, Daniel W. Hommes

Autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) and mesenchymal stromal cell therapy have been proposed for patients with refractory Crohn’s disease (CD) and fistulizing CD, respectively. Will these highly advanced techniques be available only for select patients, at specialized centers, or is further clinical development justified, with the aim of offering widespread, more definitive therapeutic options for often very difficult to treat disease? Patients with CD who are eligible for HSCT have typically been failed by most approved therapies, have undergone multiple surgeries, and have coped with years of disease activity and poor quality of life. The objective of HSCT is to immediately shut down the immune response and allow the transplanted stem cells to develop into self-tolerant lymphocytes. For patients with fistulizing CD, mesenchymal stromal cell therapy deposits MSCs locally, into fistulizing tracts, to down-regulate the local immune response and induce wound healing. Recent trials have produced promising results for HSCT and mesenchymal stromal cell therapy as alternatives to systemic therapies and antibiotics for patients with inflammatory bowel diseases, but are these immunotherapies ready for prime time?


  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cell Transplantation