In a significant development, Chinese scientists have successfully regenerated a patient’s damaged lungs using stem cell transplants, a step that can result in the treatment of chronic lung diseases.
Previously, the researchers had identified adult stem cells in a mouse lung but the new study focused on lung stem cells in humans rather than mice. This new study was published in the journal Protein and Cell.
Scientists from the Tongji University collected the stem cells from the patient’s airways and allowed them to grow numerous times before transplanting them into the patient’s lungs for a pilot clinical trial.
Dozens of stem cells were brushed from their airways and expanded tens of millions of times. They were then transplanted into the patients’ lungs, where the stem cells formed new alveoli and bronchus structures, repairing and replacing the injured areas.
The procedure was considered successful after it effectively repaired the lung tissues in six patients suffering from interstitial lung diseases and two with bronchiectasis.
After the transplant, the patients’ breathing and their ability to walk distances showed significant improvements. The bronchiectasis patients also reported relief from multiple respiratory problems like coughing and asthma.
Prior to this, the transplant procedures were successfully carried out on mice, regenerating human bronchial and alveolar structures. The injured lungs of the mice were replaced by new human alveoli and analysis suggested that the lung function of the mice were significantly recovered.
After heart disease and cancer, “lung-related diseases are the third-leading cause of human death globally”, said Wei Zuo, Professor from the varsity.
“For patients suffering from chronic pulmonary diseases, bronchiectasis and interstitial lung diseases, the lung stem cell transplantation could be the biggest hope. Chronic lung diseases could be conquered within five years,” Wei said.