Early Results of a Phase I Trial Using an Adipose-Derived Mesenchymal Stem Cell-Coated Fistula Plug for the Treatment of Transsphincteric Cryptoglandular Fistulas

Dis Colon Rectum. 2019 May;62(5):615-622. doi: 10.1097/DCR.0000000000001333.


Background: Management of transsphincteric cryptoglandular fistulas remains a challenging problem and the optimal surgical approach remains elusive. Mesenchymal stem cells, increasingly being utilized for perianal Crohn's disease, offer a novel therapy to treat cryptoglandular fistulas.

Objectives: This study aimed to determine safety and feasibility of using an autologous mesenchymal stem cell-coated fistula plug in patients with transsphincteric cryptoglandular fistulas.

Design: This study is a phase I clinical trial.

Setting: This study was conducted at a tertiary academic medical center.

Patients: Adult (>18 years) male and female patients with transsphincteric cryptoglandular fistulas were selected.

Main outcomes measures: The primary outcomes measured were the safety, feasibility, and efficacy of a mesenchymal stem cell-coated fistula plug in patients with transsphincteric fistulas.

Results: Fifteen patients (8 women, mean age 39.8 years) with a single-tract transsphincteric fistula received a mesenchymal stem cell-loaded fistula plug and were followed for 6 months. Duration of disease at the time of study enrollment was a median of 3.0 years (range, 1-13 years) with a median of 3.5 (range, 1-20) prior surgical interventions. Adverse events included 1 plug extrusion, 1 abdominal wall seroma, 3 perianal abscesses requiring drainage, and 1 patient with perianal cellulitis. There were no serious adverse events. At 6 months, 3 patients had complete clinical healing, 8 had partial healing, and 4 patients showed no clinical improvement. Radiographic improvement was seen in 11 of 15 patients.

Limitations: This study was limited by the small cohort and short follow-up.

Conclusions: Autologous mesenchymal stem cell-coated fistula plug treatment of transsphincteric cryptoglandular fistulas was safe and feasible and resulted in complete or partial healing in a majority of patients. See Video Abstract at http://links.lww.com/DCR/A897.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase I
  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anal Canal
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cell Transplantation / methods*
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells
  • Middle Aged
  • Rectal Fistula / therapy*
  • Surgical Instruments*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult