Innovative Stem Cell Approach Offers Relief for Hirschsprung Disease

▴ Innovative Stem Cell Approach Offers Relief for Hirschsprung Disease
The research signifies a pivotal step forward in regenerative medicine, offering a glimmer of hope for those suffering from this debilitating condition.


Hirschsprung disease is a rare congenital condition affecting about 1 in 5000 babies. It is caused by the absence of nerve cells in the large intestine, which prevents the intestine from properly contracting and moving stool, leading to blockages, severe constipation, and potentially life-threatening infections like enterocolitis. Traditionally, the condition is treated with surgery soon after birth, but many patients continue to experience lifelong complications and often require multiple surgeries.


Researchers from the Universities of Sheffield and UCL have been exploring an innovative approach to treat Hirschsprung disease using stem cell therapy. Their study, recently published in Gut and funded by the Medical Research Council, offers promising results that could revolutionize treatment options for this condition.

The approach involves generating nerve cell precursors from stem cells and transplanting them into the gut tissue of patients with Hirschsprung disease. These precursors develop into the missing nerve cells, potentially restoring the intestine’s ability to contract and transport stool properly.


The research began in 2017 and is a collaborative effort between the University of Sheffield and UCL. The Sheffield team focused on producing and analyzing the nerve precursors from stem cells, while the UCL team prepared the patient gut tissue, performed the transplantations, and tested the functionality of the treated tissue segments.

Tissue samples were obtained from patients at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) as part of their routine treatment. These samples were cultured in the lab and then transplanted with the stem cell-derived nerve cell precursors. The transplanted gut tissues exhibited increased contraction ability compared to the control tissues, indicating improved functionality.


Dr. Conor McCann, Principal Investigator at the UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, described the study as a significant breakthrough in cell therapy for Hirschsprung disease. "This study demonstrates the benefits of collaborative expertise and has the potential to benefit children and adults with Hirschsprung disease in the future," he said.

Dr. Anestis Tsakiridis, Principal Investigator at the University of Sheffield, highlighted the importance of this collaboration. He noted that the findings lay the groundwork for developing a cell therapy for Hirschsprung disease, with hopes of bringing it to clinical use in the coming years.


This study is the first to show the potential of stem cell therapy in improving the intestinal functionality of those with Hirschsprung disease. If successful in clinical applications, it could lead to better symptom management and overall outcomes for patients.

The research signifies a pivotal step forward in regenerative medicine, offering a glimmer of hope for those suffering from this debilitating condition. The ongoing efforts by scientists at Sheffield and UCL may soon turn this promising therapy into a viable treatment option, improving the quality of life for countless individuals affected by Hirschsprung disease.

Tags : #stem-cell #hirschsprung #birth #babies #enterocolitis

About the Author


Sunny Parayan

Hey there! I'm Sunny, a passionate writer with a strong interest in the healthcare domain! When I'm not typing on my keyboard, I watch shows and listen to music. I hope that through my work, I can make a positive impact on people's lives by helping them live happier and healthier.

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