Big Step Forward in Combating Fibrosis and Lung-related Diseases
Stem cell treatments for fibrosis and lung diseases have made significant progress according to two studies published in August.
Both studies, published in the journals Respiratory Research and Stem Cells Translational Medicine, built upon previous research into stem cell therapies for heart diseases, and lung diseases like emphysema.
The studies offer new hope for fibrosis patients whose current treatment options are medications to reduce symptoms, or a lung transplant which carries a high mortality rate.
In the journal Respiratory Research, the scientists demonstrated that they could harvest lung stem cells from people using a relatively non-invasive, doctor’s-office technique. They were then able to multiply the harvested lung cells in the lab to yield enough cells for testing.
In a second study, published in the journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine, the team displayed that in rodents they could use the same type of lung cell to successfully treat a model of Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF). After injecting them into rats that had a condition similar to IPF in humans, they discovered that the vast majority of the cells found their way into the lungs
Rats that received the injected cells showed less lung inflammation and overall healthier lung cells than those that didn’t receive the cells.
“This is the first time anyone has generated potentially therapeutic lung stem cells from minimally invasive biopsy specimens,” said co-senior author of both papers Jason Lobo, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at UNC and medical director of lung transplant and interstitial lung disease.
“We think the properties of these cells make them potentially therapeutic for a wide range of lung fibrosis diseases,” Dr. Ke Cheng, who led the studies with Lobo, added.
The researchers said that in humans their goal would be to use patients’ own stem cells to minimize the risk of immune reactions. Stem cells are young enough that they can still “grow up” to become any number of specialized cells, potentially including mature lung tissue cells.
The researchers have been in negotiations with the FDA and are preparing a submission for a clinical trial in patients with IPF.
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