A recent study that followed-up on the condition of patients with advanced pulmonary emphysema three years after they had begun a Phase I clinical trial in which they were treated with a type of stem cell called bone marrow mononuclear cells demonstrated improved symptoms and improved pathology. The idea for using stem cells to treat advanced pulmonary emphysema, a form of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) arose because of a need for a treatment that is effective in slowing the progression of the disease. Despite advances in pharmaceutical interventions for COPD, there had not yet been an intervention that was viable in the long-term.
The group who reported these new results had also led the Phase I clinical trial 3 years prior. They had chosen bone marrow mononuclear cells because of evidence that when this type of cell was introduced to the bloodstream, it could later be found in pulmonary tissue. When the researchers used these cells in patients with emphysema, they found that the procedure was safe and did not produce any significant harmful side effects. Further, immediately following the clinical procedure, the rate of degeneration of lung tissue slowed down.
The 4 patients included in the study were males between 40 and 72 years old, had stopped smoking for about 10 years before the stem cells were introduced to their bodies, and had solid family support. They had each previously smoked for more than two decades. None of the patients abused drugs or alcohol or were pregnant, and those suffering from certain infections or other health complications were excluded from the study.
While patients improved immediately following the stem cell procedure, two of the patients developed pneumonia as a result of hospital infections. The other two showed improved lung function at the 3-year follow-up. These patients experienced reduced symptoms and also performed better in the spirometry test of lung function. In addition, they both reported a higher quality of life as a result of the stem cell procedure.
Learn more about stem cell therapy for COPD.