Scientists are developing new treatments for ulcerative colitis (UC). There is ongoing scientific research into stem cell therapy for UC. Despite such developments, it remains an incurable condition.

UC is an inflammatory condition that affects an individual’s colon. Its primary symptom is frequent bloody diarrhea, although it can also cause weight loss and abdominal pain. Worldwide, there are 9–20 new cases per every 100,000 people every year.

Although there is no known cure for UC, scientists have developed treatments that can reduce the frequency and severity of symptoms. Doctors call this a UC remission.

This article details some of the newest treatment options for this condition. It discusses stem cell therapy and other modern treatments for UC.

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Stem cells are a kind of cell that has yet to develop into a specific type. Scientists have developed methods for encouraging them to develop into cells with specific functions. Doctors can use these methods in a therapeutic context.

As a 2022 review of the scientific literature explains, scientists have been researching stem cell therapies for UC.

There is some evidence that stem cell therapy can induce remission in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It can also maintain IBD remission for extended periods. IBD is the common term for UC and Crohn’s disease.

The most positive results involve using stem cell therapy for Crohn’s. However, there is evidence that this treatment could one day help people with UC. Research into this topic continues.

A 2023 review states that upadacitinib is a new Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitor. JAK is an enzyme, and JAK inhibitors reduce its activity.

Upadacitinib has shown promise in treating rheumatoid arthritis. Since rheumatoid arthritis is also an inflammatory condition, scientists have begun to research whether this drug could positively impact UC.

A 2021 paper on the scientific research notes several studies in which upadacitinib performed better than a placebo. At higher dosages, this medication induced remission in nearly one-third of study participants. It also caused signs of remission inside the colon, which doctors could measure using an endoscopy.

In 2022, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved upadacitinib as a treatment for UC.

Other JAK inhibitors

The 2021 paper lists tofacitinib and filgotinib as other recent JAK inhibitors for UC.

Research continues into using JAK inhibitors to treat UC. Part of what makes these medications so useful is that doctors can administer them orally.

Furthermore, they tend to have fewer adverse effects than traditional UC treatments.

Learn more about JAK inhibitors for ulcerative colitis.

Scientists are continually developing new treatments for UC. Additionally, there are several well-established treatments.

A 2020 review discusses a wide range of such treatments, classified in terms of their efficacy in treating UC of different severity levels. For instance, mesalamines and corticosteroids are medications that help treat mild to moderate UC.

For moderate to severe UC, the following medications are appropriate:

  • anti-TNF agents
  • anti-integrin agents
  • anti-interleukin agents

Doctors may recommend steroids and anti-TNF agents or the immunosuppressant cyclosporine for severe acute UC.

As a 2022 review explains, UC currently has no cure. This is a lifelong condition, although treatment can help people to manage its symptoms.

UC can cause some serious complications. These include incontinence, sexual dysfunction, and pelvic abscesses. UC is also a risk factor for some life threatening conditions, such as colon cancer and toxic megacolon.

However, people with UC have the same life expectancy as the general population.

This section answers some commonly asked questions about stem cells and ulcerative colitis.

What is the most successful treatment for ulcerative colitis?

There is no single best treatment for UC. Treatment options depend on the severity of someone’s UC. Every case is different, meaning one person’s treatment regimen could have little effect on another.

How close is a cure for ulcerative colitis?

There is no indication that scientists will soon discover a cure for UC.

Ulcerative colitis (UC) causes various symptoms, including abdominal pain and bloody diarrhea. It is also a risk factor for several conditions, including colon cancer.

Recently, doctors have been using JAK inhibitors to induce UC remissions. These medications tend to have few side effects and are easy to take. Upadacitinib is one such medication. Tofacitinib and filgotinib are also useful.

Scientists are also interested in using stem cell therapy for UC. So far, the results have been more modest than those for JAK inhibitors. However, research is ongoing.