Ileitis and Stem Cell Therapy
The gastrointestinal tract might not seem that complex to those with little or no medical training, but that is not the truth. It is a highly complex network responsible for supporting human health in a wide range of ways. However, a significant number of diseases can target the gastrointestinal tract, and many of them share numerous similarities, such as ileitis.
What Is Ileitis?
Technically, ileitis is an inflammation of the ileum, which is the end of the small intestine. However, the symptoms of ileitis are the same as those of ileocolitis, which is the most common form of Crohn’s disease.
The Ileitis/Crohn’s Disease Connection
Crohn’s disease is one of the most commonly diagnosed gastrointestinal diseases, with an estimated 700,000 plus patients in the United States alone suffering from this disease. There are technically five types of Crohn’s disease, including ileocolitis, ileitis, gastroduodenal Crohn’s disease, jejunoileities, and Crohn’s colitis. Of those, ileocolitis is the most common, but it shares the same symptoms as ileitis.
Are All Cases of Ileitis Related to Crohn’s Disease?
While ileitis is a type of Crohn’s disease, the condition can be present in situations that do not involve Crohn’s disease. This is possible due to the fact that the disease is nothing more than an inflammation of the ileum, so anything that causes such inflammation also causes ileitis. According to a study published in the journal Current Gastroenterology Reports,
"ileitis may be caused by a wide variety of other diseases. These include infectious diseases, spondyloarthropathies, vascultitides, ischemia, neoplasms, medication-induced, eosinophilic enteritis, and others."
What Are the Symptoms of Ileitis?
As mentioned, the symptoms of ileitis are the same as for ileocolitis. Those symptoms include:
- Significant weight loss
- Pain in the lower right of the abdomen
- Cramping in the lower right of the abdomen
Treatment Options Available
A number of conventional treatment options exist for ileitis. However, a definitive diagnosis of the underlying type of disease is important to ensure accurate treatment. For instance, ileitis caused by the bacterium Lawsonia intracellularis will not benefit from the same treatment as Crohn’s ileitis. However, many physicians approach treatment by prescribing antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications as the initial options, which can treat both bacterial ileitis and Crohn’s ileitis.
Other treatment options available to patients include corticosteroids to further help alleviate inflammation, as well as antidiarrheal drugs to combat diarrhea. In some cases, immune suppressants may be prescribed to help alleviate immune-system related attacks (the underlying cause of Crohn’s ileitis).
In addition to medications, patients can also focus on lifestyle changes that may be able to offer some relief. For instance, smoking has been found to exacerbate symptoms, while eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise can help to alleviate some of the symptoms.
Note that there is no cure for this disease, and in some cases, surgery may be necessary to combat complications.
The Promise of Stem Cell Therapy
Stem cells show significant promise for treating any disease associated with inflammation, including ileitis. While there is as yet no FDA approved treatment, a significant number of clinical trials and medical studies are ongoing.
One study, published in the journal Current Stem Cell Research and Therapy, noted,
"Hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) and mesenchymal stromal cells (MSC) therapy are both being investigated as a treatment for IBD. MSC therapy is well tolerated and associated with minimal established side-effects compared to HSC therapy, which involves ablative chemotherapy. Currently, such stem cell therapy is not a standard of care regimen for IBD. However, it may potentially become the next generation treatment of choice, especially for severe refractory IBD patients."
Another study, this one published in the journal Clinical and Translational Gastroenterology, stated that
"MSCs offer a promising emerging therapy for patients with IBD due to their immunosuppressive properties, ability to migrate to areas of injury, and demonstration of colonic healing in a mouse model."
At Indiana Polyclinic, a patient presented with the acute onset of suspected ileitis, although it was at first suspected the patient suffered from appendicitis. An abdominal CT scan showed that the patient did indeed suffer from ileitis, most likely Crohn’s ileitis. A single infusion of allogenic stem cells was given the same day, and all discomfort was eliminated within just a few hours post treatment.
Within two days, the patient reported experiencing no abdominal symptoms at all. 10 days post treatment, a second CT was performed, which showed completely normal. As no medications or any other type of treatment was provided, the improvement and rapid cure could only be attributed to stem cell treatment. The initial treatment was provided in October 2017 and the patient has remained fully healthy since that time.
A Note on Stem Cell Types
It should be noted that many medical studies utilize autologous stem cells, usually harvested from the patient’s own body (adipose/fat tissue in most cases). This is problematic for several reasons. One of those is the fact that a patient’s stem cells are the same age as their body, and they have accumulated significant damage over time. This reduces their energy levels and effectiveness, but also makes them more likely to trigger a negative immune system response on transfusing back into the body.
Instead, allogeneic stem cells (pluripotent) can be harvested from umbilical cord blood and tissue. Allogeneic stem cells are highly energetic, and free of any damage. They are far more effective at healing and reducing inflammation within the body (after an initial period of multiplication in the lungs after transfusion). Finally, they are immune system naïve, and as such do not trigger the patient’s immune system.
In the End
Ultimately, stem cell therapy offers the promise of not just treating ileitis, but curing it. At the time of this writing, there are no FDA-approved stem cell therapies, and any such treatments should be considered experimental only.