Neonatal Stem Cells from the Heart Could Treat Crohn’s Disease

Research from Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago found that direct injection of neonatal mesenchymal stem cells, derived from heart tissue discarded during surgery, reduces intestinal inflammation and promotes wound healing in a mouse model of Crohn’s disease-like ileitis, an illness marked by chronic intestinal inflammation and progressive tissue damage.

The study, published in the journal Advanced Therapeutics, offers a promising new and alternative treatment approach that avoids the pitfalls of current Crohn’s disease medications, including diminishing effectiveness, severe side effects and increased risk of gastrointestinal dysfunction.

“Neonatal cardiac-derived mesenchymal stem cells have been used in a clinical trial to repair an injured heart, but this is the first time these potent cells have been studied in an inflammatory intestinal disease model,” said senior author Arun Sharma, PhD.

Dr. Sharma explains that before it would be feasible to use these stem cells clinically to treat Crohn’s disease, his team needs to overcome the hurdle of how they are administered. 

In the current animal model study, the stem cells were injected directly into the inflammatory lesions in the small intestine, which requires surgical procedures. The next step then is to develop a safe way to inject them into the body through a vein, similar to performing a blood draw in the arm of a patient. More animal studies will be needed before this novel treatment approach can progress to clinical trials.

“Ultimately our goal is to utilize this cell type as treatment, but also as a preventive measure, before signs and symptoms of Crohn’s disease develop,” said Dr. Sharma. “We also might be able to apply this approach to other inflammatory diseases. The potential is enormous, and we are excited to move forward.”


Muthukumar Gunasekaran, Matthew I. Bury, Tiffany T. Sharma, Larry W. Wang, Natalie J. Fuller, Swetha T. Krishnan, Sunjay Kaushal, Arun K. Sharma. Multipotent Human Neonatal Cardiac‐Derived Mesenchymal Stem Cells Modulate Ileitis In Vivo. Advanced Therapeutics, 2023; DOI: 10.1002/adtp.202200261

Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. (2023, July 28). Neonatal stem cells from the heart could treat Crohn’s disease: Study found reduced intestinal inflammation and wound healing in a mouse model. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2023 from 
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