Unique Stem Cell Therapy Could Help Treat Gastroparesis

According to a story from BioPorfolio, a recent study first published in STEM CELLS Translational Medicine describes a unique stem cell procedure that has the potential to be a major step forward in the treatment of gastroparesis, a rare condition affecting digestion. The therapy involves the transplantation of two different types of cells: adult neural progenitor cells (NPCs) and interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC).

About Gastroparesis

Gastroparesis is a medical condition in which the stomach becomes partially paralyzed. This causes food to remain in the stomach for an abnormally long time; in fact, food may stop passing through the digestive tract entirely. There are a number of potential causes of gastroparesis, such as autonomic neuropathy, abdominal surgery, cigarette smoking, prior infection, and hypochlorhydria. The nerve responsible for normal movement of food from the stomach is called the vagus nerve, and any damage to it can cause gastroparesis. The condition often appears alongside other diseases, such as scleroderma, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, and mitochondrial disease. Symptoms include a feeling of fullness after eating very little food, vomiting, abdominal pain, nausea, night sweats, muscle weakness, weight loss, palpitations, stomach spasms, and heartburn. Treatment may include several different medications, changes in diet, or procedures such as gastric electrical stimulation or sleeve gastrectomy. To learn more about gastroparesis, click here.

About The Study

One of the leaders of the study, Dr. Khalil N. Bitar, explains that ICCs play a critical role in maintaining the pace of digestion and food passage from the stomach. They work in tandem with nerve cells to facilitate this process, and an absence of neurons and ICCs can lead to the symptoms of gastroparesis. Earlier studies have investigated the use of embryonic neural crest cells and neural stem cells, but it was only recently discovered that NPCs could effectively generate usable neurons as well.

The study used rat ICCs and NPCs that were then injected into a model of a neuromuscular-dysfunctional rat pylorus. The pylorus is the area where the stomach and the beginning of the small intestine are linked. The cells were able to successfully integrate with the host muscle and restored its normal function. 

While more research will be needed before such an approach can be tested on human patients, the findings nevertheless show some real promise in offering a long term treatment for gastroparesis. 

Check out the original study here.

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