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Researchers test fecal transplant, stem cells for treating Crohn's disease

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
FMT studied in children for Crohn's disease treatment

Fecal transplant may be an option for Crohn's disease treatment according to preliminary research conducted among children. A second study recently found stem cells can help repair fistulas that are an all too common complication of Crohn's disease.


In one study fecal transplant that uses feces from a healthy donor resulted in remission of Crohn's disease in seven out of nine children treated.

Dr. David Suskind, a gastroenterologist at Seattle Children's Hospital who led the new study said in a press release: "This research could change the way Crohn’s disease is treated and help unravel the mystery of what causes it,”

Fecal transplant, also known as fecal microbial transplant or FMT, is not yet approved by the FDA as a Crohn's disease treatment. Past studies are mixed regarding the benefit for IBD treatment. Nevertheless, patients have been performing the procedure at home and reporting good results. A simple internet search yields multiple results of videos complete with do-it-yourself instructions.

The study is the first to be approved by the FDA and should lead to more research and more information about long-term outcomes and who would benefit from the procedure.

The study titled, “Fecal Microbial Transplant Effect on Clinical Outcomes and Fecal Microbiome in Active Crohn’s Disease,” is recently published in the journal Inflammatory Bowel Diseases..

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Researchers for the study cite several reasons fecal transplant might be an option to medications for treatment of Crohn's disease, including:

  • Restoring gut microbes to a more "normal" state that turns off the autoimmune response, though the role of specific bacteria in the gut related to inflammatory bowel diseases is still being explored.
  • Case studies suggesting FMT has alleviated Crohn's disease symptoms

The study authors note there are limitations given the small number of patients given FMT. Patients in the study were also pretreated with Miralax and rifaximin that "could" account for the benefits seen in the investigation.

Stem cells for healing fistulas from Crohn's disease

In a separate study researchers in Korea were able to "heal' fistulas from Crohn's disease using stem cells taken from a patient's own fat tissue.

Dr. Chang Sik Yu led the study. Patients with Crohn's disease were injected with stem cells and "glue" surgically. The study results, published in the journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine reported seventy-five percent of 36 patients had no recurring fistula after two years.

Larger studies are needed for fecal transplant and stem cells injections as a treatment for Crohn's disease to ensure safety and effectiveness.

Image of intestinal bacteria: Wikimedia Commons



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