Novel Stem Cell Therapy for Lung Diseases

Novel Stem Cell Therapy for Lung Diseases

Mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) are a type of stem cells with the capacity to differentiate into multiple cell lineages. Including chondrocytes, osteoblasts, and adipocytes. MSCs are found in the bone marrow as a small fraction of cells (0.001%–0.01%) and help with new blood cells development. MSCs also reside in many other tissues, such as adipose tissue, connective tissue, umbilical cord, liver, spleen, and lung.

Preclinical studies have shown that MSCs can be effective in a wide range of respiratory disease, which may include pulmonary hypertension, asthma, bronchiolitis obliterans, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD). There have been a number of clinical trials focusing on the use of stem cells in the treatment of IPF, ARDS, and BPD, which have revealed that administration of MSCs is safe but have not yet demonstrated a clinical benefit from MSC administration. There is a huge potential for stem cell therapy for COPD as it is characterized by inflammation, airway remodeling and destruction of lung architecture, and stem cells can be used to induce anti-inflammatory and regenerative effects. The preliminary data from the research being carried out to study the role of MSCs in the management of COPD.


MSCs are known to have immunomodulatory effects on surrounding tissue. Furthermore, there have been reports of antimicrobial effects of MSCs on several respiratory pathogens, such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pneumoniae.  New research is showing that MSCs have regenerative effects on lung epithelial and endothelial cells. MSCs have been shown to induce repair and to protect against airway epithelial cell damage that is a common feature in many pulmonary diseases. Interestingly, there is evidence that some pro-inflammatory processes are also induced by MSCs that actually help in tissue healing in lungs.

Emphysema is a condition that is characterized by significant destruction of alveolar tissue destruction and recent studies have shown that MSC treatment restored damaged alveolar structures in animal models. MSCs were found to secrete chemicals locally that promote repair and healing in these emphysema models. Furthermore, MScs have also been found to have a proliferative effect on the pulmonary vessels, leading to increased perfusion of the lung, which is yet another factor that promotes healing. In addition to helping in restoring lung architecture, MSCs have been found to reduce the rate of cell death and in fact, increase tissue proliferation.


Currently, there are multiple clinical trials studying the use of MSCs in patients with moderate-to-severe COPD. While the safety of MSCs has been reported in these patients, there is no still no compelling evidence that there is a definite clinical benefit. But there are several trials underway and their results are awaited It is true that we are still some ways from stem cell therapy being an established practice in the management of lung disease management, but the steps taken in that direction are very encouraging.

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