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Study shows potential of stem cell therapy to repair lung damage



A new study has found that stem cell therapy can reduce lung inflammation in an animal model of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cystic fibrosis. Although still at a pre-clinical stage, these findings have important potential implications for the future treatment of patients.

The new research investigated the effectiveness of mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) therapy in a mouse model of chronic inflammatory lung disease, which reflects some of the essential features of diseases such as COPD and cystic fibrosis. The findings were presented last month at the Lung Science Conference held in Estoril, Portugal.

Researchers delivered stem cells intravenously to β-ENaC overexpressing mice at four and six weeks of age, before collecting samples tissue and cells from the lungs at eight weeks. They compared these findings to a control group that did not receive the MSC therapy.

The results showed that inflammation was significantly reduced in the group receiving MSC therapy. Cells counts for both monocytic cells and neutrophils, both signs of inflammation, were significantly reduced after MSC therapy. Analysis of lung tissue revealed a reduction in the mean linear intercept and other measures of lung destruction in MSC-treated mice. As well as reducing inflammation in the lung, MSC therapy also resulted in significant improvements in lung structure, suggesting that this form of treatment has the potential to repair the damaged lung.

Study author Declan Doherty, Ph.D., a research fellow at from Queens University Belfast Centre for Experimental Medicine, commented, “These preliminary findings demonstrate the potential effectiveness of MSC treatment as a means of repairing the damage caused by chronic lung diseases such as COPD. The ability to counteract inflammation in the lungs by utilizing the combined anti-inflammatory and reparative properties of MSCs could potentially reduce the inflammatory response in individuals with chronic lung disease whilst also restoring lung function in these patients.

“Although further research is needed to improve our understanding of how MSCs repair this damage, these findings suggest a promising role for MSC therapy in treating patients with chronic lung disease."

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