Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is an incurable and debilitating disease characterized by chronic and progressive inflammation that leads to small airway obstruction and emphysema.
According to the World Health Organization, COPD is the third leading cause of death and is responsible for an estimated 3.2 million deaths each year. Between 80 and 90% of all COPD cases are caused by exposure to cigarette smoke, meaning it is also one of the most preventable diseases.
In addition to the increased risk of death, COPD significantly affects the overall quality of life and is often associated with difficulty breathing, chronic cough, lack of energy, lung infections, lung cancer, and heart disease.
A number of stem-cell-based approaches to address this issue are currently being explored. In this study, Ridzuan et al. uses an animal model to assess the potential anti-inflammatory effects of human umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cell (hUC-MSC)-derived extracellular vesicles (EVs) in cases of COPD.
EVs are small membrane vesicles of multivesicular bodies that are released by a variety of cells, including MSCs. Studies have demonstrated EVs isolated from MSCs mimic the therapeutic effects of MSCs.
Over the course of this study, and to mimic the symptoms observed with COPD, rats were exposed to cigarette smoke for up to 12 weeks, followed by transplantation of hUC-MSCs or application of hUC-MSC-derived EVs.
At the conclusion of this study, Ridzuan et al. found that both the transplantation of hUC-MSCs and the application of hUC-MSC-derived EVs reduced peribronchial and perivascular inflammation, slowed alveolar septal thickening, and decreased the number of goblet cells. Both applications also improved the loss of alveolar septa in the lung of COPD rats and regulated multiple pathways commonly associated with COPD.
Ridzuan et al. conclude that hUC-MSC-derived EVs effectively reduce COPD-induced inflammation and could have the potential to be a therapy for the management of COPD.
The authors also concluded that the selected treatment methods decreased the above-described symptoms at comparable rates. While there are still limited data demonstrating the regenerative and the anti-inflammatory effects of MSC-EVs to mitigate the inflammation in COPD, further study is needed to fully understand the anti-inflammatory effects of MSC-EVs and to better understand the specific mechanisms of action of all contents of MSC-EVs as they relate to the potential future treatment of COPD.
Source: “Human umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cell-derived extracellular ….” 12 Jan. 2021, https://stemcellres.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13287-020-02088-6.