COVID-19 has boomed up the lung disease prevalence with severe cases of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Lung Disease (COPD) and pneumonia. Lungs diseases cause breathing difficulty and lung inflammation can lead to disorders like fibrosis and Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). Conventional treatments do not provide sufficient lung tissue repair potential and therefore, clinical researchers are ardently exploring stem cell therapy as an alternative treatment option.
What are the Common Lungs Diseases?
Lungs diseases can be of three basic categories:
Airway diseases –They affect air pathways that deal with oxygen transport, by causing a blockage. The diseases under this category include: asthma, COPD, etc.
Lung tissue diseases – They affect the structure of the lung tissue by scarring or inflammation. The common diseases under this category are: Pulmonary fibrosis and sarcoidosis.
Circulation diseases – They affect the blood vessels in the lungs by clotting, scarring, or inflammation. The common diseases include pulmonary hypertension.
The adult human body acts as a rich source of stem cells which exist in the blood, muscles, skin, liver, brain, and bone marrow. Many studies have shown that some specific populations of lung stem cells also reside in the lungs.
Pilot studies in animal models have shown immense promise with reports of stem cells playing a major role in replacing damaged lung tissues besides creating new air pathway cells. In an NIH study, researchers have reported a new type of stem cell which supports alveoli or air sac function in the lungs. Alveolar epithelial progenitor cells are the most promising lung stem cells in therapy but owing to the scarcity of supply, researchers are aiming towards utilizing mesenchymal stem cells or reprogrammed stem cells.
Benefits of Stem Cell Treatments for Lungs
Stem cell treatment is an excellent upcoming approach to treat lung diseases. When healthy stem cells are injected in the body, they promote repair and regeneration of damaged tissues alongside immune regulation function.
In case of lung diseases, stem cells can be administered through IV or site-specific procedures. Stem cells can help in the repair of lung scarring by expressing anti-inflammatory molecules and enhance the oxygen retention capacity of the lungs. Several COVID-19 patients in clinical studies have reported improved lung conditions and reduced ARDS & COPD distress (Ref: https://stemcellsjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/sctm.21-0046).
In the last few years, more and more lung stem cell clinical trials are being conducted to aid patients suffering from various lung diseases. The research being conducted on lung stem cells is promising and is deemed to get better with time. The information about these trials can be accessed at ClinicalTrials.gov. There is a significant success rate when it comes to stem cell therapy trials in lung diseases but these trials require larger cohorts and randomization to make ‘stem cell therapy’ a standard treatment. Stem cell therapy is natural and safe for the patients with the right quality of cells and it gives hope to the patients for a potential cure.
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