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Research Points to Promising Target for Irritable Bowel Disorder Therapies

Researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and colleagues have identified a potential target for more effective therapies for irritable bowel disease (IBD) – a subset of human bone marrow stromal cells (HBMSC) that can thrive in the intestine and potentially help restore tissue within the intestine.
According to a news release from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, senior researcher Graca Almeida-Porada, MD, PhD, professor of regenerative medicine at Wake Forest Baptist's Institute for Regenerative Medicine, and colleagues “used cell markers to identify a population of stem cells in human bone marrow with the highest potential to migrate to the intestine and thrive.” The cells express high levels of Ephrin type B receptor 2 (EphB2), which is “involved in tissue repair and wound closure.”
Almeida-Porada is quoted in the release as saying that his team “identified two populations of human cells that migrate to the intestine‑‑one involved in blood vessel formation and the other that can replenish intestinal cells and modulates inflammation,” and hopes that “a mixture of these cells could be used as an injectable therapy to treat IBD.”
For the study, the researchers transplanted the HBMSCs into fetal sheep. They reported that “most of the transplanted cells were positioned in the crypt area, replenishing the stem cells in the intestine” at 75 days post-transplantation.
Almeida-Porada said that this study could be significant because although previous animal studies have “shown that the transplantation of bone-marrow-derived cells can contribute to the regeneration of the gastrointestinal tract in IBD,” the studies involved only small numbers of successfully transplanted cells.
He said the goal of this study was “to identify populations of cells that naturally migrate to the intestine and have the intrinsic ability to restore tissue health.” As the current study looked only at the cells’ ability to migrate to and survive in a healthy intestine, future studies will need to investigate cells’ viability in an inflamed intestine.
The study results were reported in “EphB2 Isolates a Human Marrow Stromal Cell Subpopulation with Enhanced Ability to Contribute to the Resident Intestinal Cellular Pool,” published in The FASEB Journal (the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology). The authors described these results as identifying “a marker for isolating and culturing an expandable subpopulation” of HBMSCs with “enhanced intestinal homing and contribution to the [intestinal stem cell] region.”

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