Several recent studies have shown that adult stem cells, and specifically mesenchymal stem cells (MSC), appear to support the regeneration and protection of lung tissue, making them a very promising potential next-generation therapy option for the treatment of COPD.

Known treatments for COPD are designed to address symptoms and not the actual cause of the condition; considering that COPD continues to be among the leading causes of death among developed countries and that it’s considered to be a preventable and treatable disease there is a clear and compelling need to develop more effective therapeutic strategies.

As COPD develops, its inflammatory properties are characterized by the death of the epithelial cells, loss of the terminal air-space within the lung, and ongoing breakdown of lung tissue responsible for stability, elastic recoil, and other physiological functions essential for respiration. 

Since the damage to these cells is permanent and not repairable, researchers continue to explore the use of MSCs as a potential option to repair and restore lung structure and lung function in people living with COPD.

Currently, any therapeutic-based COPD treatment option relies on the continued use of bronchodilators and/or corticosteroids to reduce the symptoms of COPD.  While both of these drugs have been able to slow the worsening of COPD symptoms, the benefits appear to be ineffective as a long-term treatment option for even mild to moderate COPD.

Because of their capacity to induce growth of skeletal muscle cells, blood, fat, vascular systems, and connective tissues throughout the body, and since they seemingly have a capacity for self-renewal, MSCs are now being considered as a therapeutic treatment option for COPD.

In addition to their versatility throughout various cells, tissues, and systems, MSCs are relatively simple to isolate, they expand with high efficiency, are easily able to be processed and transported from the lab setting to point-of-use, and are highly compatible with different delivery methods and formulations currently being used by medical professionals.

Early research has also demonstrated that MSCs possess powerful immunosuppressive properties and are easily able to seek out and migrate to specific sites of tissue injury; this appears to be especially promising in the tissue of the lungs where not only have MSCs demonstrated the ability to suppress inflammation and growth factor production but also been found to reduce fluid retention within the lungs.

While these findings are promising, Phase II clinical trials to establish the use of Mesenchymal stem cells as a therapeutic treatment in patients with severe COPD are currently ongoing.  Specifically, this trial is examining how effective MSCs derived from normal healthy adult donors in the treatment of COPD.

Although further study is required, early indications show promise that stem cell therapy, and specifically the use of MSCs, could be a very effective therapeutic treatment option in patients with moderate to severe COPD.

Reference:  (n.d.). Mesenchymal stem cell therapy for the treatment of … – PubMed. Retrieved November 25, 2020, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20384521

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