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Aliment Pharmacol Ther 2010; 32: 939–952

Summary

Background  Drugs available for the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease fail to induce and maintain remission in a significant number of patients.

Aim  To assess the value of stem cell therapies for treatment of inflammatory bowel disease based on published studies.

Methods  Publications were identified through a MEDLINE search using the Medical Subject Heading terms: inflammatory bowel diseases, or Crohn’s disease, or ulcerative colitis, and stem cell, or stromal cell or transplant.

Results  Haematopoietic stem cell therapy as a primary treatment for inflammatory bowel disease was originally supported by animal experiments, and by remissions in patients undergoing transplant for haematological disorders. Later, transplantation specifically performed for patients with refractory Crohn’s disease showed long-lasting clinical remission and healing of inflammatory intestinal lesions. Use of autologous nonmyeloablative regimens and concentration of the procedures in centres with large experience are key in reducing treatment-related mortality. Initial trials of mesenchymal stem cell therapy with local injection in Crohn’s perianal fistulas had positive results.

Conclusions  Autologous haematopoietic stem cell transplant changes the natural course of Crohn’s disease, and may be a therapeutic option in patients with refractory disease if surgery is not feasible due to disease location or extension.