For Crohn’s Patients, a New Immune System is New Hope

Hope is something that a lot of Crohn’s disease patients have a hard time developing. A chronic condition, Crohn’s is a form of inflammatory bowel disease that causes severe upset stomach, malnutrition and general digestive dysfunction, including chronic diarrhea.  Patients with Crohn’s disease experience inflammation in the colon as a result of a malfunctioning immune system.

The leading course of treatment for Crohn’s disease varies patient to patient. For some patients, dietary changes, stress management techniques and medication are enough to stabilize the symptoms and regulate the condition, but for others surgery is necessary. Immune system repressors, antibiotics and laxatives are all common courses of treatment for patients with Crohn’s, though for some none of these treatments are entirely effective.

New Treatment for Crohn’s on the Horizon

Treatments for diseases like Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis develop regularly, but every once in a while there is medical breakthrough that is particularly intriguing. A new form of treatment for Crohn’s disease suggests replacing the person’s immune system with that of a matching donor—whether it is a stranger or a close relative.

The problem with taking medication for Crohn’s disease is that once you stop taking the medicine the inflammation will return and the problem won’t have been solved. While some Crohn’s sufferers are happy to take the medication long-term so they can experience relief, signing onto a long term medicinal plan is less than ideal. This new form of Crohn’s therapy is a way to actually correct the problem by replacing the patient’s immune system with a healthy one that will not over-react to intestinal bacteria and cause chronic inflammation.

In order to replace a person’s immune system, your surgeon would obtain a small sample of bone marrow from a matching donor and transplant the bone marrow cells into the Crohn’s patient. The new healthy cells would replace a diseased or abnormal immune system with a healthy one, and prompt Crohn’s disease to go into remission as the colon is finally provided with a chance to heal the inflamed and irritated intestinal lining.

This type of treatment is still being studied and at the moment is not yet a proven form of Crohn’s therapy. The study is called the Crohn’s Allogeneic Transplant Study or CATS and is being completed by researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Researchers are currently accepting patients to take part in this clinical trial. Find out more about the CATS program, including eligibility information and updates concerning the study by visiting the CATS website.