Stem Cell Therapy: A Potential Crohn's Disease Breakthrough?

Louis A. Cona M.D.

Jan 15, 2020

6 minutes

Stem cell-based therapy is one of the promising new treatment options for refractory IBD and Crohn's Disease Patients.

What is Crohn's Disease?

Crohn's Disease is an idiopathic condition that is characterized by inflammation within the gastrointestinal tract. Patients suffering from this chronic condition can have periods of both remission and relapse.

What are the symptoms of Crohn's Disease?

The most common symptoms that are associated with Crohn's Disease are usually stomach pain and diarrhea. Over the course of years, the condition can be characterized by flare-ups and periods of unpredictable remission. Other symptoms of Crohn's Disease may include:

  • Fever
  • Weight Loss
  • Nausea or Vomiting
  • Nutrient Deficiency
  • Mental Problems (such as anxiety or depression)

Is there a cure for Crohn's?

Unlike ulcerative colitis, a similar inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn's disease has no surgical cure. However the symptoms of Crohn's can be managed with new Crohn's medication, which may include; immunosuppressives, antibiotics, antidiarrheal, or corticosteroids. Stem cell therapy may also be a viable treatment option for those suffering from Crohn's, mainly due to the treatment's ability to target and alleviate inflammation, the underlying symptom of the condition.

Pictured: The human digestive tract

What causes Crohn's Disease?

The cause of Crohn's Disease is currently unknown, it is currently believed that both environmental and genetic factors may play a role in the development of the disease. According to J Ghazi, et al. Studies have found compelling evidence for an inheritable risk for the development of Crohn disease. However, classic Mendelian inheritance is not seen. Most of the genes thought to be involved in the development of the disease play a role in mucosal immunity, and their products are found on the mucosal barrier epithelium. It is thought that Crohn's Disease is caused by the chronic inflammation from T-cell activation leading to tissue injury within the gastrointestinal tract.

"After activation by antigen presentation, unrestrained responses of type 1 T helper (Th1) cells predominate in Crohn disease as a consequence of defective regulation. Th1 cytokines such as interleukin (IL)-12 and TNF-α stimulate the inflammatory response. Inflammatory cells recruited by these cytokines release nonspecific inflammatory substances, including arachidonic acid metabolites, proteases, platelet-activating factor, and free radicals, which result in direct injury to the intestine." J Ghazi, et al.

Stem Cell Therapy for Crohn's Disease

Inflammation is prevalent in disorders ranging from heart disease and diabetes to IBD and Crohn's Disease. Treatment of these diseases, as well as many other common conditions, usually addresses the reduction of inflammation in the body. Whether through drugs, diet and lifestyle changes, or other natural methods, the goal is to eliminate as much inflammation from the body as possible.

Researchers have shown over the years that Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs) are one of the strongest anti-inflammatory tools available today and many patients are turning to stem cell therapy to meet their needs.

T-cell activation within the gastrointestinal tract leads the body to conduct an immune response leading to chronic inflammation causing pain and discomfort. Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs) have the inherent ability to target inflammation within the body and repair damaged tissue. This potentially makes a large stem cell transplant an effective treatment for inflammatory conditions such as Crohn's Disease.

Mesenchymal Stem Cells effectively treat Crohn's Disease Perianal Fistulas

According to Barnhoorn, et al. Stem cell therapy with bmMSC (Bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells) was associated with significantly lower clinical disease activity (Crohn's) and improved quality of life at four years. The study looked at the diameter of the group's Fistula tracts (abnormal connection between two body parts, often causing pain).

75% [3/4] of the patients had complete clinical fistula closure after 4 years, as determined by the absence of discharge. MRI evaluation after 4 years showed an improvement in the fistula tracts in 67% [6/9] of MSC treated patients [Figure 1]. We have shown that the efficacy of local bmMSC therapy for perianal Crohn's disease fistulas was maintained for up to 4 years after treatment.

Figure 1: Fistula thickness Credit: Barnhoorn, et al

Mesenchymal Stem Cells may be able to treat Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Mesenchymal Stem Cells may have the ability to treat Inflammatory Bowel Disease according to a study conducted by Shimizu, et al.

MSCs have been reported to have an immunosuppressive effect by polarizing anti-inflammatory M2 macrophages and reducing both dendritic cells and neutrophils through prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) and IL-10 at the wound site. MSCs can also reduce the activity of T lymphocytes and B lymphocytes by modulating their proliferation and differentiation. There have been several phase I/II clinical studies for both autologous and allogeneic MSC transplantation (MSCT). In this trial, 53% of patients had clinical remission, and endoscopic improvement was observed in 47% of patients at 42 days after transplantation.

In Conclusion

The study concluded that Stem cell-based therapy is one of the promising new treatment options for refractory IBD patients, making mesenchymal stem cell therapy and exciting new treatment option for patients with chronic inflammation within the digestive tract. One may argue that these findings may be able to transfer over to Crohn's disease patients, as a reduction in inflammation may decrease symptoms and lower the chance of further flare-ups. Barnhoorn, et al. concluded that stem cell therapy for Crohn's disease in the long-term, is a safe therapy. Mesenchymal stem cells also have a strong immunomodulatory effect, meaning they can prevent the immune system from mistakenly responding to incorrect threats. This can reduce negative immune responses in patients with Autoimmune conditions.

What is DVC Stem?

At DVC Stem, we have been using stem cell treatments to improve health and comfort for over 10 years. We follow the highest standard, respecting safety & innovation in the delivery and evolution of regenerative and protective medicine. DVC Stem is a state of the art medical center that is fully licensed by the Cayman Islands Government. Our mission is to alleviate symptoms and halt disease progression.

What does DVC Stem's treatment protocol look like?

DVC Stem uses cord tissue-derived mesenchymal stem cells ethically sourced, AATB certified, US-donated, full-term human umbilical cords. We administer over 300 million cells that are all thoroughly tested for viability before treatment. These cells are NOT a blood product, therefore, it is extremely safe and does not require HLA or phenotypic matching.

Mesenchymal stem cells can:

1. Reduce inflammation

2. Modulate the immune system

3. Stimulate tissue regeneration

Want to learn more about treatment for Crohn's Disease? Click Here


Tyler explains his experience at DVC Stem in the Cayman Islands.

Tyler is optimistic that he will see positive results post treatment.

"The cool thing about the Cayman Islands besides being beautiful, it was an opportunity to get some rest and relaxation allowing my body to heal and restore. I'm back in the US now and feel like I am ready to conquer the world."

- Tyler Heid


2 weeks post treatment, MS patient Tyler is beginning to see amazing progress. He has been wheelchair bound for the last year and has not been able to move his legs unassisted before now.

Tyler Heid, lifting his foot 12" off the ground with 2 lb weights on his ankles.

Tyler - 2 weeks post treatment

"I'm on a path of progression and I'm getting better and better each day."

Tyler Heid - 2 months post treatment


Tyler updates about his progress, explaining the amazing response he has been receiving from his friends and family.

"People coming up to me saying I am moving, talking and smiling so much better. They are noticing a lot of things that have improved over the course of 3 months."

"This morning I was able to do things that I was unable to do before, I was able to stand up and lift my leg higher than I ever have before."


5 months post treatment Tyler sends us an update on his progress.

"I'm able to smile better, I have more control over the left side of my face."

"I have an increased ability to grip, lift my legs higher and higher which has gone well."

Tyler is optimistic and on the right track to recovery. We are ecstatic to see his progress and look forward to more updates from him.

"I have an increased ability to grip, lift my legs higher and higher which has gone well."

Tyler Heid - 5 months post treatment

"This is exciting stuff, god bless"

Matthew Murry - MS Patient


Matthew experiences sensation in the bottom of his feet after receiving a simple nerve test.

His left foot did not experience any sensation or move at all, but what happened to his right foot is extremely exciting!

David Lyons

Multiple Sclerosis

Although David Lyons was able to successfully fight Multiple Sclerosis through a strict regimen of diet and exercise, he wanted to ensure he was doing everything he could to stay fit. Multiple Sclerosis can be managed with treatment, but there is currently no cure for the disease. For that reason, David came to DVC Stem years ago to use the regenerative and anti-inflammatory attributes of stem cells to aid in his fight for fitness.

The positive results he experienced enabled David to stay strong in the gym, now into his 60s, and that is why he continues to support our clinic to this day.

About the author


Dr. Cona has been performing stem cell therapy for over 10 years. He is a member of the World Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (WAAAM). He is also a recognized member of the British Medical Association, the General Medical Council (UK), the Caribbean College of Family Physicians, and the American Academy of Family Physicians. He is the Medical Director for DVC Stem a world-renowned stem cell therapy clinic located in Grand Cayman.

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