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J Tissue Eng Regen Med. 2018 Apr;12(4):923-935. doi: 10.1002/term.2506. Epub 2017 Oct 19.

Intestinal barrier integrity and inflammatory bowel disease: Stem cell-based approaches to regenerate the barrier.

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Department of Gastroenterology, Medical Section, Herlev Hospital, University of Copenhagen, Herlev, Denmark.
Biotech Research and Innovation Centre (BRIC), University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark.
The Danish Stem Cell Center (Danstem), University of Copenhagen, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, Copenhagen, Denmark.


Disruption of normal barrier function is a fundamental factor in the pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel disease, which includes increased epithelial cell death, modified mucus configuration, altered expression and distribution of tight junction proteins, along with a decreased expression of antimicrobial peptides. Inflammatory bowel disease is associated with life-long morbidity for affected patients, and both the incidence and prevalence is increasing globally, resulting in substantial economic strain for society. Mucosal healing and re-establishment of barrier integrity are associated with clinical remission, as well as with an improved patient outcome. Hence, these factors are vital treatment goals, which conventionally are achieved by a range of medical treatments, although none are effective in all patients, resulting in several patients still requiring surgery at some point. Therefore, novel treatment strategies to accomplish mucosal healing and to re-establish normal barrier integrity in inflammatory bowel disease are warranted, and luminal stem cell-based approaches might have an intriguing potential. Transplantation of in vitro expanded intestinal epithelial stem cells derived either directly from mucosal biopsies or from directed differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells may constitute complementary treatment options for patients with mucosal damage, as intestinal epithelial stem cells are multipotent and may give rise to all epithelial cell types of the intestine. This review provides the reader with a comprehensive state-of-the-art overview of the intestinal barrier's role in healthy and diseased states, discussing the clinical application of stem cell-based approaches to accomplish mucosal healing in inflammatory bowel disease.


antimicrobial peptides; inflammatory bowel disease; intestinal stem cells; mucus; pluripotent stem cells; tight junctions


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