Stem Cell for Crohn’s Disease Fistula: South Korean Study by Dr. Chang-Sik Yu

Stem Cell Treatment for Crohn’s Disease Fistula. Two years ago, this news video reported on a research by a South Korean doctor which promises a new treatment procedure using stem cell for Crohn’s disease fistula.

Here’s the transcript for those of you who want a ready reference for this promising new treatment:

Dr. Chang-Sik Yu and his team from AMC’s Division of Colorectal Surgery have confirmed the efficacy of a novel stem cell therapy for Crohn’s fistula, a complication of the rare and incurable digestive disorder.

In a study conducted from January 2010, Dr. Yu’s team treated 33 Crohn’s fistula patients by injecting their lesions with adipose stem cells. Fatty tissue taken from the patient’s own belly or thigh was used to produce the stem cells. Eight weeks after the injections, 27 of the 33 patients showed complete closure of the fistula, which showed success rate of 82%.

Crohn’s fistula is a common complication of Crohn’s disease. Inflammation near the anus causes an opening or channel to form inside the digestive tract, resulting in chronic inflammation and often infection. Patients need to live with a drainage tube in order to prevent leakage of pus or feces, making daily life difficult. There was a high risk of recurrence after the surgery.

Dr. Chang-Sik Yu / Division of Colorectal Surgery: Crohn’s fistula has always been very difficult to cure. Conventional treatment is effective in only 50% of cases, and patients continue to suffer from symptoms and recurrence. Our stem cell therapy showed favorable outcomes, with complete closure of the fistula in about 80% of the patients.

The therapy involves producing a stem cell agent using fat extracted from the patient’s own belly or thigh. The adipose stem cells are separated, cultivated, and injected as a therapeutic agent into the fistula.

This novel stem cell therapy is significant in that it causes no damage to the sphincter or surrounding tissue, and there is no need for a drainage tube.

It’s been two years since the above news and we want to give you an update on what’s happening in this front. Did Dr. Yu and his team manage to develop a stem cell treatment for Crohn’s fistula that can now be used to help patients who are suffering from the disease?

Unfortunately, there ain’t no treatment yet but the research continues. Recently, the researchers issued a news release on the outcome of their treatment over a longer period of time.

From their news release (via “The latest study was intended to evaluate the long-term outcome by following 41 of the original 43 patients for yet another year. Dr. Yu reported, ‘Our long-term follow-up found that one or two doses of autologous ASC therapy achieved complete closure of the fistulas in 75 percent of the patients at 24 months, and sustainable safety and efficacy of initial response in 83 percent. No adverse events related to ASC administration were observed. Furthermore, complete closure after initial treatment was well sustained. These results strongly suggest that autologous ASCs may be a novel treatment option for Crohn’s fistulae’.”

It is worth pointing out the limitation of this study which is that it had no comparison group with which we can juxtapose the results found for the study’s experimental group. Nonetheless, the 75% remission is impressive and does offer hope for Crohn’s fistula patients. According to a HealthDay news report, the best comparative data is at a much lower “36 percent remission at one year” so this South Korean research’s results is a very big improvement indeed.

Our Final Take: Stem cell for Crohn’s disease fistula is very promising but the researchers are still undertaking a long-term study to confirm the effectiveness of the treatment over a long time period.