Ulcerative Colitis and Stem Cell Therapy
What Is Ulcerative Colitis?
Ulcerative colitis is one of the two diseases that make up the inflammatory bowel disease. It’s a disease that causes the inflammation of ulceration of some parts of the gastrointestinal tract, specifically the colon and the rectum. It affects the inner lining of the colon and rectum, and leads to bleeding, due to ulceration. This disease if left untreated, can lead to severe complications. The etiology of this disease has remained unknown; however, there have been many theories and explanations, as to what causes it. Genetics, environmental factors, immune system disorder have all been implicated to be the cause of this inflammatory disease.
Signs and Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis
The signs and symptoms of ulcerative colitis depend entirely on the severity of the disease, and on what part of the intestine affected. The general symptoms of this disease include mucus-filled and bloodstained feces, fever, and seldom weight loss. Below are some of the ways ulcerative colitis affects the different organ systems of the body.
Gastrointestinal system: Patients suffering ulcerative colitis usually present with diarrhea often with blood and mucus. This may persist for a long time, and may eventually lead to weight loss. Blood will be seen on rectal examination. The progressive loss of blood due to diarrhea can also lead to anemia. Patients often present with a headache, abdominal pain, cramps in the abdomen, and irregular abdominal movements. This disease usually moves from the rectum to the colon. This disease is usually accompanied by inflammatory processes that affect many organs systems of the body, apart from the gastrointestinal system.
Severity of Disease
This disease can be classified according to their severity. This include
- Mild severity: Patients usually pass excrements up to four times a day. This implies that it can be less, but doesn’t exceed four times. They usually have a normal erythrocyte sedimentation rate. Symptoms of mild severity ulcerative colitis include abdominal cramping and pain. Patients might also complain of difficulty in passing out feces. They do this with a lot of force, strain, and
- Moderate severity: Patients usually pass feces more than four times in a day. Also, they usually present with abdominal pain, fever, and mild anemia.
- Severe disease: Patients in this category pass feces more than 6 times in a day. The stools are usually bloody and large in quantity. They may also have toxicity presentations, such as fever, increased heart rate, anemia and an increased erythrocyte sedimentation rate.
- Fulminant disease: This is the most severe stage. Patients usually pass stools more than 10 times in a day. They also present with diarrhea and persistent bleeding. This continuous bleeding eventually leads to anemia, if left untreated. In most cases, they do require a blood transfusion, to replace the blood loss. In addition, patients do have abdominal pain, cramps, distension, and Toxic megacolon is one of the hallmarks of the fulminant disease.
Due to the inflammatory nature if ulcerative colitis, it also affects other systems of the body. Below are some of them;
- Mouth: It leads to the development of aphthous ulcer
- Eyes: This disease can also lead to the inflammation of the iris.
- Musculoskeletal system: Ulcerative colitis is often associated with arthritis in the joints. Ankylosing spondylitis is also a typical example of joint inflammation that accompanies the disease.
- Skin diseases: Conditions such as erythema nodosum, an inflammation of the tissues of the lower limbs is also associated with ulcerative colitis.
- Other: Other diseases associated with ulcerative colitis are clubbing of the extremities and primary sclerosing cholangitis. This disease might lead to stunted growth, especially when it happens in children.
Causes of Ulcerative Colitis
The cause of Ulcerative colitis isn’t exactly known. However, different studies and research have made some suggestions. Some of these suggestions are factors such as genetics, environmental factors, immune system.
- Environmental factors: Environmental factors such as diet is one that could increase the risks of having ulcerative colitis. As an illustration, consuming food that has excessive amounts of unsaturated fat and pantothenic acid increases the risk of having ulcerative colitis. In addition, foods rich in sulfur have also been implicated to raise the chances of having this inflammatory disease.
- Immune system: Ulcerative colitis is an autoimmune disease. An autoimmune disease is one in which the body T cells fails to recognize the body tissues. This is what happens in Ulcerative colitis. T cells fail to recognize the rectum, and they attack it. Ulcerative colitis is usually localized to the rectum and doesn’t affect the entire colon, as compared to Crohn’s disease.
It has been observed that smoking reduces the chances of having this disease
Risk Factors for Ulcerative Colitis
- Genetics: It has been observed that people who have a relative suffering from this disease have an increased chance of having this disease.
- Race: According to statistics, it has been noted that Caucasians are more prone to having Ulcerative colitis, as compared to other races. For example, this disease is most predominant among Jews
- Age: Ulcerative colitis tends to occur more in young adults. In fact, it occurs before people hit the age of thirty. However, this disease can occur at anytime
How is Ulcerative Colitis Currently Treated?
Ulcerative colitis can be treated with medications. Examples of medications that can be used for the treatment of ulcerative colitis are aminosalicylates and corticosteroids.
- Aminosalicylates: They are the first line drugs for the treatment of ulcerative colitis. Examples of aminosalicylate are sulfasalazine and magazine
- Corticosteroids: They are used for the suppression of the immune system, considering that Ulcerative colitis is an autoimmune disease.
Stem Cell Therapy of Ulcerative Colitis
Stem cells are cells that are capable of repair and regeneration. They also have the ability to regulate the immune system. A lot of research and studies have been done to improve on how stem cells can become the lasting solution to this disease. Stem cells have the ability to modulate the immune system, making them useful in the treatment of this disease. In addition, mesenchymal cells have the ability to home in on injured tissues in the body. They can easily locate the affected part of the colon, and carry out repairs, and also reduce the inflammatory activity going on there.
Korelitz, B. and Rajapakse, R. (2001). Ulcerative Duodenitis with Ulcerative Colitis: Is it Crohn’s Disease or Really Ulcerative Colitis?. Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, 32(2), p.97.
Ohkusa, T. (2003). Induction of experimental ulcerative colitis by Fusobacterium varium isolated from colonic mucosa of patients with ulcerative colitis. Gut, 52(1), pp.79-83.
SACHAR, D. (2012). Management of acute, severe ulcerative colitis. Journal of Digestive Diseases, 13(2), pp.65-68.