What are stem cells and how are they used to treat lung disease? Stem cells are a special cell found in various parts of everyone’s body. They’re best thought of as a blank slate cell with the potential to become any other type of cell. This way they can be applied to parts of the body with damaged tissue and regenerate as new, healthy tissue instead, due to their natural ability to self-replicate. The organs suffering from degenerative diseases thus heal themselves, slowing or reversing the damages caused by otherwise difficult-to-treat conditions.
Stem cells can come from many sources, even other people, or undeveloped embryos. At the Lung Institute, they only use what are called autologous cells – meaning they come only from the patient’s own body and no one else. As explained by PR Web, this minimizes the risk of their immune system rejecting the cells, since it isn’t a foreign substance. Adverse effects are nearly nonexistent. These cells can be harvested from blood or bone marrow using minimally invasive, outpatient techniques.
The stem cells are then injected back into the patient, where they’re caught in what the Lung Institute refers to as the “pulmonary trap”, or the pulmonary first-pass effect. Data suggests that most stem cells get trapped in the lungs once infused, spreading evenly throughout. This is exactly what’s needed for lung treatment.
While certain diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can’t be cured, degeneration can slow and symptoms can improve, with nary a drawback. This study from Brazil, following up on several patients three years after treatment, reported better quality of life for all of them.
The Lung Institute now has five locations in the U.S. which all operate under FDA and IRB approval to treat conditions like COPD, pulmonary fibrosis, and interstitial lung disease, and continually collect data for further research and treatment. Check out the Lung Institute’s Facebook page for more info.