Can Stem Cell Therapy Be Used to Treat Lung Disease?

Traditional treatment options may not be effective in alleviating the symptoms and slowing the progress of COPD. This is why research teams around the world have been looking for alternative treatment options. Stem cell therapy is one of those options, and research is focused on the efficacy of this regenerative therapy when used as a treatment for chronic lung conditions. 

Over the last decade or so, huge progress has been made in this area. Researchers have discovered strong links between mesenchymal stem cell transplantation and relief from COPD symptoms. Ex vivo lung bioengineering is an emerging field, but it’s getting a lot of attention in the world of medical research. 

The Weiss research team recently reviewed a range of clinical trials for the treatment of lung disease. Among the therapeutics examined were the use of MSCs in the treatment of lung disease, as well as the use of embryonic cells and endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs). 

Weiss pointed out that while preclinical data support the use of MSCs and EPCs in the treatment of chronic lung conditions, clinical behaviors are often more difficult to predict. This is perhaps why large-scale clinical trials of stem cell therapy have been few and far between.

For severe, chronic lung diseases such as COPD and cystic fibrosis, there’s currently only one viable traditional treatment — a lung transplant. But transplants of this nature typically have a 50% mortality rate after five years. And lifelong anti-rejection drugs are required in order to stop the immune system from rejecting the new organ. There’s also a chronic shortage of donor lungs available, which leaves many patients fighting a losing battle. 

But in recent years, researchers have turned their attention to the implantation of ex vivo lung tissue. An enormous amount of progress has been made in the use of donor and synthetic tissue in the treatment of COPD and other chronic lung conditions. 

Future research projects will be aimed at better understanding the roles of EPCs and fibrocytes in lung disease. It is believed that alveolar epithelial cells and functional airways can be developed from iPS cells and ESCs, but a lot more research is needed to find definitive proof.

Stem cell research could, with more research, become a mainstream treatment option for COPD sufferers. The potential of this, along with ex vivo bioengineering, is huge. But while the use of artificially engineered lung tissue is some way off, stem cell therapy is very much one of today’s therapeutic options. 

Source:  (n.d.). Current Status of Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine in Lung …. Retrieved from

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