Suffering from chronic pancreatitis can have a significant burden on the life of an individual. It is a condition that is known to be irreversible, and it affects how a person’s body is able to digest food. While there are several treatment options available for patients, most only take care of symptoms and many patients do not want to consider surgical options for various reasons.
This is why many patients may turn towards alternative treatments to find a more permanent and satisfactory solution for this condition. The use of stem cell therapy for pancreatitis is one treatment that holds a lot of promise.
This article will discuss stem cell therapy for chronic pancreatitis and the details of using stem cells for pancreas. It will also answer the question, what is stem cell transplant and pancreatectomy for chronic pancreatitis, among others.
Get a free online consultation with a medical advisor of the Clinic to learn about stem cell treatment of pancreatitis and its expected outcome for your personal case.
What is pancreatitis?
The pancreas is a gland behind the stomach. Its function in the body is the production of enzymes for digestion and the production of hormones like insulin. Pancreatitis is a medical condition characterized by inflammation of the pancreas.
Depending on how long it lasts, pancreatitis can be said to be either acute or chronic. The symptoms and outcomes are different depending on the type that a patient has.
What is acute pancreatitis?
Acute pancreatitis is pancreatitis that typically resolves within one to two weeks. It is the sudden inflammation of the pancreas that lasts for a relatively short time. The prognosis is good, and most individuals will recover fully.
In this case, patients experience severe pain in their upper abdomen. Many people with this condition will say that the pain worsens after they eat food. This pain may sometimes be felt in the patient’s back. They also tend to experience nausea, vomiting, and fever.
What is chronic pancreatitis?
Chronic pancreatitis is significantly different from acute pancreatitis. Instead of sudden, painful inflammation, patients experience long-term inflammation. This condition is irreversible, and this consistent damage to the pancreas results in fibrosis of the gland.
For patients with chronic pancreatitis, they have constant abdominal pain. This can sometimes be bad enough to prevent them from doing their daily activities. Due to the long-term effect of the pancreas damage, patients may notice other symptoms related to the functions of the pancreas.
For instance, due to the impaired digestion of food, unexplained weight loss may occur. Due to the pancreas’ role in breaking down fat, when affected, patients may experience oily feces. This is known as steatorrhea.
One of the most dreaded complications of chronic pancreatitis occurs when the insulin-producing part of the pancreas is damaged. When this happens, a patient will develop diabetes. This is characterized by high blood sugar and comes with its own set of symptoms.
What causes pancreatitis?
Pancreatitis is caused when the digestive enzymes in the gland find themselves activated before they enter the digestive tract. These enzymes then attack and irritate the cells in the pancreas. This is what leads to inflammation.
There are several conditions that can cause the activation of these enzymes. They include the following:
- Gallstones in the bile duct
- Pancreatic cancer
- Use of certain medications
- Elevated blood triglycerides (hypertriglyceridemia)
- Abdominal injury
- Abdominal surgery
How pancreatitis is diagnosed
A patient’s medical history and symptoms will be the first thing a doctor uses to suspect the condition. When a physician has a suspicion of pancreatitis, they may order investigations to diagnose the condition.
Investigations that might be used to diagnose pancreatitis include any of the following:
- Enzyme markers: a blood test used to measure the levels of enzymes in the blood. In this case, the digestive enzymes amylase and lipase. They leak into the blood when there is pancreatic damage.
- Imaging tests, such as ultrasound or CT scan. This will help provide images of the pancreas and associated structures. This is an easy way to notice physical abnormalities.
- Serum calcium and triglyceride levels can be used to find the causes of a case of pancreatitis.
- Stool tests can be used to assess the quantity of fat in the stool. However, significant impairment in fat digestion and absorption only occurs in advanced disease.
- Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography: This imaging test provides the best image of the ductal system of the pancreas. It is the best test for diagnosing chronic pancreatitis.
What are the treatment options for pancreatitis?
Typically, treatment of pancreatitis focuses on managing pain, ensuring adequate hydrating and nutrition (parenterally, if necessary), and other medications in some cases.
In many instances, surgery becomes an option. In cases where the condition is caused by gallstones, they may need to be removed surgically. Sometimes, parts of the pancreas may need to be removed, such as in a partial or total pancreatectomy.
However, opting for a program that uses stem cell therapy for pancreatitis can be a very promising alternative. It has the potential to improve symptoms of pancreatitis to a greater extent than traditional treatment, especially with the prospect of stem cell pancreas regeneration.
Stem cell treatment procedure
The procedure for stem cell treatment for chronic pancreatitis is a multi-stage process. Some of these steps may take weeks, if a patient’s own (autologous) cells are used for therapy, or days, when it comes to donated cells.
The first step is harvesting the mesenchymal stem cells from the patient’s own or donated tissues. These cells are commonly gotten from adipose tissue, bone marrow or umbilical cord. To collect autologous biomaterial, the patient is taken to the operating room. His or her skin will be cleaned, the patient will receive either local or general anesthesia, and then the samples are collected.
After this, the cells need to be properly processed. This is when the stem cells for pancreas will be extracted and prepared from the sample. Before the cell-based drug can be injected, cells will be cultured under controlled conditions to obtain a large number of them. This stage tends to take the longest, which can be as many as four weeks.
Once the stem cells are ready, stem cell therapy for pancreatitis can begin. This is the phase where the cells are introduced into the body. In the case of stem cell therapy for chronic pancreatitis, this is done through intravenous infusion. The patient is kept relaxed, while the infusion runs for one or two hours. These stem cells move to the sites of inflammation and damaged tissues and ensure their healing.
Safety and side effects
Stem cell therapy is very safe when done by experienced clinical professionals. A study using mesenchymal stem cells derived from the umbilical cord found no major adverse events following treatment with stem cells.
Most patients tolerate stem cell treatment very well, particularly when conducted at a stem cell therapy center with qualified and experienced personnel. However, it should be kept in mind that all patients are different and it is not possible to completely exclude the risk of reactions. Once again, when done at a professional center, the risk and outcome of reactions can be minimized.
Cost of stem cell therapy for pancreatitis
In general, stem cell therapy tends to be relatively expensive, costing up to tens of thousands of dollars in some cases. However, an exact price may vary as each patient is different and costs are defined by what is included in the treatment program.
For instance, some patients opt for inpatient treatment and the duration may vary, others may require additional treatments, the number of injections and stem cells needed may also vary, and other aspects of the treatment need to be personalized. All of these can impact the cost.
To get the most accurate estimate of the cost of stem cell therapy for your case, please contact the Clinic to enquire. Not only will you get the cost of treatment, but it is an opportunity to have pressing concerns and questions answered.
Get a free online consultation
Contact us to learn about the cost and duration of the therapy, what the treatment involves and what the expected results are.
Improving quality of life with stem cells
Chronic pancreatitis is a condition that has no definitive cure. Many patients are not satisfied with using medication or the option of surgery. Stem cell therapy offers a promising opportunity for them to get better and improve their quality of life.
While the effects of treatment are varied between patients, this is a very safe procedure to undergo. So the question is, is it worth sticking to well-established treatments that do not restore full function when a revolutionary option like stem cell therapy is available?
List of References
Mohy-ud-din, N., & Morrissey, S. (2021). Pancreatitis. In StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing.
Barry K. (2018). Chronic Pancreatitis: Diagnosis and Treatment. American family physician, 97(6), 385–393.
Azer SA, Sankararaman S. Steatorrhea. [Updated 2021 Jul 25]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-.
Sarles H. (1992). Chronic pancreatitis and diabetes. Bailliere’s clinical endocrinology and metabolism, 6(4), 745–775.
Chatila, A. T., Bilal, M., & Guturu, P. (2019). Evaluation and management of acute pancreatitis. World journal of clinical cases, 7(9), 1006–1020.
Kundumadam, S., Fogel, E. L., & Gromski, M. A. (2021). Gallstone pancreatitis: general clinical approach and the role of endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography. The Korean journal of internal medicine, 36(1), 25–31.
Sara M. Ahmed, Mahmoud Morsi, Nehal I. Ghoneim, Mohamed M. Abdel-Daim, Nagwa El-Badri, “Mesenchymal Stromal Cell Therapy for Pancreatitis: A Systematic Review”, Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, vol. 2018, Article ID 3250864, 14 pages, 2018.
Liu, X., Zheng, P., Wang, X., Dai, G., Cheng, H., Zhang, Z., Hua, R., Niu, X., Shi, J., & An, Y. (2014). A preliminary evaluation of efficacy and safety of Wharton’s jelly mesenchymal stem cell transplantation in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Stem cell research & therapy, 5(2), 57.
Medical Advisor, Swiss Medica doctor