Crohn’s disease is largely considered to be an autoimmune disease, where the body’s own immune system turns on the digestive tract, creating inflammation that eats away at the digestive tract tissues. It is one of two chronic inflammatory bowel diseases (the other is ulcerative colitis), and can strike anywhere along the digestive tract, from the mouth to the anus, but most commonly strikes the ileum (lower part of the small intestine), the colon (large intestine) and the area where the two connect. There is no cure for Crohn’s though many drug therapies exist to stifle its progress and reduce symptoms.
Currently there are no Health Canada or FDA approved stem cell treatments available for Crohn’s disease. While we know that inflammation is a key part of the development of Crohn’s, the exact cause and the mechanisms for its persistence are not known and researchers are looking at autoimmunity, bacteria, genetics and the environment for clues. Several pre-clinical and early stage clinical trials using stem cells to treat Crohn’s are underway and include approaches that use mesenchymal and/or fat-derived stem cells, as well as blood stem cells.