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Miraculous stem cell revolution! Defying Crohn’s Disease

Scientists hail breakthrough they claim is equal to the creation of antibiotics using stem cells to treat Crohn's disease.

They are the building blocks of human life. And scientists are increasingly convinced that stem cells are set to revolutionise the entire spectrum of medicine, providing therapies for everything from cancer and heart disease to blindness and even paralysis.

Professor Brendon Noble, the chief scientific officer at the UK Stem Cell Foundation (UKSCF), which funds research into pioneering trials, says: “The potential is huge. Our ability to use stem cells to combat disease means there is genuine hope of moving away from treatment to cure.”

The tantalising future is one where the body’s own cells can repair damage caused by disease or injury, meaning that we can effectively cure ourselves. And some important stem cell therapies are already in use within England’s National Health Service.

Potential uses currently being investigated include breakthrough treatments for debilitating conditions such as multiple sclerosis and Crohn’s disease, which are driven by the immune system turning against the body and attacking healthy tissue. In these cases, stem cells are used to replace patients’ faulty immune cells with new ones.

The hope is this system ‘reboot’ will effectively cure the illness.

For Charlotte Howe, the symptoms of Crohn’s disease were so debilitating that she was forced to give up her university course and even undergo major surgery.

But after undergoing stem cell treatment, she has now been clear of symptoms for the past five years.

She says: “Crohn’s totally dominated my life, affecting my work and my social life. I was experiencing acute pain but the doctors weren’t able to find out why it was so bad.”

“At one stage I had emergency surgery to remove my entire small bowel and then had a stoma and colostomy bag for a year. The doctors thought I was cured. But unfortunately the Crohn’s came back with a vengeance and life was hell for the next seven years.”

Then Charlotte, now 35, was referred by her consultant to a stem cell trial being carried out at Barts Hospital in London.

Over a period of 18 months, she underwent two courses of chemotherapy, which meant losing her hair both times, before being infused with her own stem cells that had been grown in a laboratory.

Charlotte, from Surbiton, Surrey, says: “Within a couple of weeks of completing the infusion I was starting to feel better. After a couple of months I had very few symptoms.”

“And by six months I was off all my medications, living a life free from Crohn’s.”

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Posted on: December 3 2018

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