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Stem Cell Discovery Might Someday Help Treat Colitis, Crohn's

FRIDAY, Dec. 6, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- Scientists say they have found a way to grow intestinal stem cells and get them to develop into different types of mature intestinal cells.

This achievement could one day lead to new ways to treat gastrointestinal disorders such as ulcers or Crohn's disease by replacing a patient's old gut with one that is free of diseases or inflamed tissues, according to researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

"Being able to produce a large inventory of intestinal stem cells could be incredibly useful for stem cell therapy, where the cells could be delivered to patients to treat diseases such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis," study co-senior author Jeffrey Karp, of the biomedical engineering division at Brigham and Women's Hospital, said in a hospital news release.

"These cells could also be useful for pharmaceutical companies to screen and identify new drugs that could regulate diseases [including] inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes and obesity," he said. "However, to date there hasn't been a way to expand intestinal stem cell numbers."

The findings offer possibilities for a range of medical advances, another researcher said.

"This opens the door to doing all kinds of things, ranging from someday engineering a new gut for patients with intestinal diseases to doing drug screening for safety and efficacy," said co-senior author Robert Langer.

The study appeared online Dec. 1 in the journal Nature Methods.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about digestive diseases.

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