The October 2007 issue of Pediatrics—the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics—offers a case report entitled "Correction of Celiac Disease After Allogeneic Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation for Acute Myelogenous Leukemia."
It's a fascinating glimpse into the world of Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation (HSCT). Did you know that, as the authors note, there are documented cases of patients developing celiac disease due to stem cells from donors who have celiac disease, but that this case report might be the first to describe a "cure" of the condition due to a stem cell transplant? Or that there has been documentation of improvement or stabilization of systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and Crohn's disease after stem cell transplantation?
The report concludes
Although we do not, at this time, advocate allogeneic HSCT as the definitive treatment of CD, the decreased morbidity and mortality associated with the use of reduced-intensity stem cell transplants may someday allow HSCT to be an acceptable alternative to a lifelong gluten-restricted diet, which, at best, is extremely difficult to remain adherent to for life. Whether HSCT will reduce the purportedly increased risk of enteric malignancy in this population remains unclear.My reaction to this is mixed. I'm fascinated by the thought that HSCT might reverse celiac disease, but I'm also skeptical about this isolated case. There have been tales of remission before, especially for people in this patient's age group. Further monitoring and more research should shed light on what sounds like a very promising medical development.