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HealthWatch: Resetting The Immune System To Treat Crohn's Disease

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Crohn's disease affects more than 700,000 Americans. It's a painful chronic inflammation of the intestines at least partly caused by an over-reaction of the immune system. So that's why a British clinical trial is focusing on ways to reset the immune system.

Moeed Majeed has eight years of painful memories since being diagnosed with Crohn's disease.

"I remember suddenly getting a lot of pain in my abdominal area, having to go to the bathroom a lot more, which was very unusual, and I wasn't eating a lot because it made me feel sick," Majeed explained.

The chronic pain and fatigue became so debilitating he had to drop out of college and move home.

A new clinical trial at Queen Mary University of London is working to help people like Majeed who haven't responded to available drugs or surgery.

"What we're doing is using a patient's own stem cells to reset their immune system," Prof. James Lindsay said.

Study participants with Crohn's receive chemotherapy to wipe out their faulty immune system. Doctors then use a stem cell transplant and hormone treatments to grow a new one.

It's an intensive treatment to combat what Prof. Lindsay calls a devastating disease.

"Anything that we can do that... takes away the duration of that suffering is an excellent thing," Lindsay added.

Majeed is documenting his health journey online. He's spent more than two months in the hospital and years trying to find a treatment that works.

"The trials are great, I think it's an awesome thing. Especially with people looking to maybe find a cure," the Crohn's patient said.

The stem cell trial will last about four years. British scientists say they see real potential for this approach to improve the lives of Crohn's patients.

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