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Researchers using bone marrow for treating Crohn's disease

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Emory researchers are enrolling participants for Crohn's disease treatment using patient's own bone marrow

Crohn's disease is a poorly understood condition that is believed to be an autoimmune disorder. The condition is not curable, impacts quality of life and manifests with symptoms that come and go. Now researchers at Emory University are exploring the benefits of using a patient's own bone marrow to prevent damage from the disease and prevent Crohn's disease flare-ups.

How bone marrow could help Crohn's disease

The bone marrow therapy is being explored in older adolescents and younger adults and is currently being offered only in Atlanta, Georgia, US.

Subra Kugathasan, MD, Marcus Professor of pediatric gastroenterology at Emory School of Medicine and a physician with Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, is leading the clinical trial through support from the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America and the Atlanta Clinical and Translational Science Institute.

Crohn's disease is difficult to treat, the researchers say. For some patients, even after surgery, the disease can recur, making it important to find personalized therapies for the debilitating condition that causes abdominal pain, diarrhea, malnutrition and growth and development delays in children.

"There is no current answer for what specifically causes Crohn's disease, nor is there a cure," says Kugathasan in a press release. "But we hope that through our clinical research, we will be able to significantly improve the course of this disease."

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Bone marrow transplants have been used for decades to help treat life-threatening diseases. For Crohn's disease, the researchers are harvesting mesenchymal stromal cells from the bone marrow that the Emory team has already studied for treating autoimmune diseases.

Here is a video that helps explain how cells can be retrained to calm and "over-exuberant" immune response that happens to people with Crohn's and other autoimmune diseases.

Rather than relying on a donor for the bone marrow cells, the trial uses the patient's own cells that are prepared and delivered shortly after harvesting and without animal products.

If you have Crohn's disease and are interested in participating in the trial, you can contact Emory University, or speak with your physician. For additional information, contact the clinical trial team via email at [email protected] or by calling 404-727-7049.

The hope is to develop therapies with bone marrow that target cancer, Crohn's disease and other autoimmune diseases and more.

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Image credit:
Wikimedia Commons
by: Nephron



I'm in Australia and wish there was trail here so as I could perticapate. I've had endless operations on my small bowel at the moment I have a temporary Ostomy bag to give what is left of my bowel time to heal. I have less than 30cm of small bowel and after I have my reversal I'm worried how long it will be before I loose it completely and have a permanent ostomy bag! I hope this trial is quick and works and hope it spreads to other countries quickly so people like myself that suffer with this disease can have some hope of a better future..
Angie - Thank you for your comment. I have read Australia has the highest rates of colitis and Crohn's disease in the world - per the report link below. For now, the best thing is to help raise awareness. Here is a link to a PDF about raising money in Australia for an audit to help improve quality of life for people with the condition. I am so sorry you are struggling with this as so many others are. My hope is they do find a way to treat this - or even better, the root cause to prevent it. http://www.crohnsandcolitis.com.au/content/Press_release_-_CCA_Federal_Funding_Agreement_-_13_Dec_2013.pdf