Current Transplantation Reports

, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp 134–145 | Cite as

Mesenchymal Stem Cells to Treat Digestive System Disorders: Progress Made and Future Directions

  • Barbara Romano
  • Ana Lleo
  • Emanuela Sala
  • Giovanna D’Amico
  • Domenica Ida Marino
  • Rachele Ciccocioppo
  • Stefania VetranoEmail author
Cellular Transplants (G Orlando, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Cellular Transplants


Purpose of Review

The purpose of this review is to summarize the results from clinical trials that evoked promise and discouragement for the use of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) to treat digestive system disorders.

Recent Findings

Adult MSCs are defined as a non-homogeneous population of pluripotent progenitor cells, which can be isolated and expanded in vitro from different tissues. The differentiation capacity of MSC along mesenchymal lineages and their immunomodulatory properties have been considered a new therapeutic approach for intestinal disorders. A dysregulated immune response is the cause and sustainment of these disorders, as they are characterized by progressive tissue damage with no available curative treatment.

Up to now, 130 clinical trials on MSC-based therapy are registered to treat conditions affecting the digestive system.


The results from completed or underway clinical studies are encouraging, showing both benefit for those digestive disorders refractory to any conventional therapy and progression toward end-stage liver disease. However, the absence of large, robust controlled, and randomized clinical trials to assess MSC clinical efficacy limits MSC-based therapy translation to bedside reality to completely cure digestive disorders.


graft-versus-host disease Inflammatory bowel disease Liver disorders Mesenchymal stem cells Perianal fistula Tissue regeneration 


Funding Information

The manuscript was supported by a grant from Ministero della Salute (GR -2009 Convenzione 76) to SV; My First AIRC Grant (MFAG 2015-17795) to SV.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Rachele Ciccocioppo received a consulting (honorary) fee by Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited (USA). Ana Lleo has served as a speaker for Abbvie, BMS, Gilead, and Intercept. Barbara Romano, Emanuela Sala, Giovanna D’Amico, Domenica Ida Marino and Stefania Vetrano have no conflicts of interest to declare.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Barbara Romano
    • 1
  • Ana Lleo
    • 2
    • 3
  • Emanuela Sala
    • 4
  • Giovanna D’Amico
    • 5
  • Domenica Ida Marino
    • 6
  • Rachele Ciccocioppo
    • 7
  • Stefania Vetrano
    • 2
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Pharmacy, School of Medicine and SurgeryUniversity of Naples Federico IINaplesItaly
  2. 2.Department of Biomedical SciencesHumanitas UniversityPieve EmanueleItaly
  3. 3.Division of Internal Medicine and HepatologyHumanitas Clinical and Research Center IRCCSRozzanoItaly
  4. 4.IBD Center, Laboratory of Immunology in GastroenterologyHumanitas Clinical and Research Center IRCCSRozzanoItaly
  5. 5.“Centro Ricerca Tettamanti” Pediatric Department, University of Milano-Bicocca, Fondazione MBBMMonzaItaly
  6. 6.Ohio State College of Arts and ScienceColumbusUSA
  7. 7.Gastroenterology Unit, Department of MedicineAOUI Policlinico G.B. Rossi and University of VeronaVeronaItaly

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