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Cure for Crohn's fistula increasingly likely

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Published on May 6, 2013

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.

The research findings were recently published in academic journal called Stem Cells.

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