Stem Cell Transplants Rejuvenate Chinese Bronchiectasis Patients’ Damaged Lungs

Stem Cell Transplants Rejuvenate Chinese Bronchiectasis Patients’ Damaged Lungs

Chinese medical scientists used stem cell transplants to rejuvenate the damaged lungs of two bronchiectasis patients, a study reports.

An article on the pilot clinical trial’s results appeared in the journal Protein & Cell. It was titled “Regeneration of functional alveoli by adult human SOX9+airway basal cell transplantation.

The first step that the Tongji University researchers took was to identify lung cells they might be able to use as stem cells. The cells they chose contained the stem cell biomarker Sox9.

Next the team isolated the cells they might be able to use from the other cells they found in a sample of lung tissue. They worked with Ren Tao, a doctor at Shanghai East Hospital, on this task. Because lung stem cells represented a tiny fraction of the cells the team isolated, they expanded them in the lab.

Importantly, they were able to expand the cells in a way that prevented mutations, which could have harmed the patients once transplanted.

Before they introduced the stem cells to humans, they tested their regenerative capacity in mice with damaged lungs. Within three weeks the human stem cells had attached themselves to the mice’s lung cells.

A careful analysis showed that the human stem cells had triggered the formation of functional   respiratory units in the mice’s lungs. The units consisted of bronchial and alveolar structures surrounded by capillaries.

In addition, the healthy human tissue replaced the scarred tissue in the damaged lungs, and the mice recovered lost respiratory function.

“The anatomical structure and development process of human lungs are quite different from that of mice,” Wei Zuo, the study’s lead author, said in a press release. “Only by directly studying human subjects can we get close to the truth and finally solve the real medical problem.”

So after the mice experiments, the team collaborated with researchers from China Army University’s Southwest Hospital and Regend Therapeutics on the clinical trial in humans.

The team isolated lung stem cells from two bronchiectasis patients, expanded them, then delivered them to the patients’ lungs with a tube known as a bronchoscope that has a tiny camera on the end.

Within three months of the transplants, the patients began recovering lung function. Within a year they were experiencing less shortness of breath and coughing.

Twenty months after the transplants, “Patient 1 described improvement of dyspnea [shortness of breath], improvement of exercise capacity,” less coughing and fewer bronchiectasis flare-ups, the researchers wrote. The other patient also experienced less coughing and fewer flare-ups.

“Stem cell transplantation is quite effective,” said Xiaotian Dai, the lead physician in the trial. “We will continue the study by expanding the cohort [patient population] size, including a control group and carrying out a long-term continuous observation” of patients’ response, he said.

Stem cell therapy’s effectiveness depends largely on the quality of the cells, so the team is complying strictly with Chinese and U.S. regulators’ quality management standards, said Lifeng Wang, Regend Therapeutics’ chief quality officer.

The team has already performed 80 stem cell transplants in patients with interstitial lung disease, COPD, bronchiectasis, and other disorders.

With stem cell transplants, “chronic lung diseases could be conquered within five years,” Zuo suggested.

Patricia holds a Ph.D. in Cell Biology from University Nova de Lisboa, and has served as an author on several research projects and fellowships, as well as major grant applications for European Agencies. She has also served as a PhD student research assistant at the Department of Microbiology & Immunology, Columbia University, New York.
Patricia holds a Ph.D. in Cell Biology from University Nova de Lisboa, and has served as an author on several research projects and fellowships, as well as major grant applications for European Agencies. She has also served as a PhD student research assistant at the Department of Microbiology & Immunology, Columbia University, New York.
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  1. Susan Guthrie says:

    This information gives me so much hope. Dyspnea is one of the most life-robbing conditions a person can live with. I wonder why we aren’t doing this research in the U.S.? What scares me is that stem cell effectiveness has long been known to regenerate and heal tissue, but there is some reason the FDA hasn’t accepted it as such and so insurance companies will not reimburse for it. Because of that, stem-cell therapy is only available to the wealthier Americans who can afford to pay out-of-pocket for treatment. I hate to be so skeptical, but I wonder about the surgeon/doctor lobbyists in Washington. Or our political ‘fear’ about growing stem cells. As a patient with bronchiectasis, it gives me hope but also continued fear and skepticism of the FDA.

  2. Gail Bales says:

    When I phoned a stem cell lung institute from their ad, they said I would not be a candidate because I have had prior cancer(s). I had papillary CA, (1969) basal cell and squamous cell (2007, 2014, 2016). My pulmonologist doesn’t advocate stem cell as “There’s not enough research/evidence “. What’s your opinion please.

  3. Debra L Williams says:

    There are clinics that will isolate stem cells from fat tissue, then introduce them back into the body by IV and through nebulising the solution. I looked into it, but for what you spend they can only offer a year or two of relief and then no guarantee of even that. Still looking… I understand that Panama has some really good stem cell clinics. Watch Mel Gibson on the Joe Rogan show about stem cells on you tube.

  4. Ivan says:

    Cheryl; if you do a internet search, you`ll find that in the U.S there`s at least one clinic that does this already, i think it costs around $12000-$15000 for the treatment, i`ve read on a forum of one woman who had this done a couple of years ago, from what i remember after about 18 months felt alot better. I`m from Australia and so far no one is doing this, to my knowledge and detriment. I have tasis with chronic bronchitis, and have no less than 6 infections in the last 12 months, and am becoming quite tired of it all. I am thinking about going overseas to get this treatment done, i know that Thailand have a clinic that does this treatment also.
    This condition can make a person quite desperate, i need to save up some more cash and talk to my specialist about this, but i fear that they will tell me what i already know, and that is “Stem Cell treatment is still in it`s early stages” so it might be best to wait a few more years.

  5. CW says:

    The Chinese Clinical Study, , sounds very close to what is being done at UNC School of Medicine and North Carolina State University. They want to do a clinical by taking seed cells from a patient, grow the size of the extracted cells in the lab and then reintroduce the cells into the patient. It might not be a home run but if it means improvement in lung function with no need for a transplant I’d consider it a solid double or triple.

    If two competing research schools are looking into this treatment then that hopefully means it may have a promising outlook.

    I was diagnosed with IPF eighteen months ago. My lung function is slowly declining. Please let this be an improvement over a transplant or the questionable drugs that are still not proven to do much in the long term for IPF.

  6. susan harris says:

    I was diagnosed with mild bronchiectasis 6 years ago, and was told it was virtually non existent. I can now feel it creeping up and at times can’t climb stairs but then another day am fine. It has been the knowledge for me that has been hard to bear. I am a worrier and have spent these years searching for a cure or something that can delay it’s progression.I remember reading this article when it came out, but don’t know if further studies are being done. I would think that with the results there would be more studies even though it was small, (I hope and pray), because with hope you feel better.

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