The first stage of the study demonstrated the value of stem cell therapy for the treatment of lung tissue damaged by respiratory diseases.
Scientists at Imperial College London and the University of Hong Kong showed that the stem cells reduce some of the damage in human lung cells exposed to cigarette smoke in the laboratory. According to the researchers, the results could pave the way for cell-based therapy for patients with chronic lung disease (COPD and asthma).
COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is a severe respiratory disease when patients have difficulty breathing. One feature of the disease is damage to mitochondria, the energy cell units by oxidative stress during smoking.
In a recent article published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, describes the study of the effect of cigarette smoke on the smooth muscle cells taken from human lung. Scientists have noticed that in the tissue exposed to cigarette smoke, the mitochondria become more sluggish and less efficient at producing energy. Damaged cells are more likely to commit "cell suicide" (programmed cell death, or apoptosis). It is found that when cultured lung cells with stem cell apoptosis rate decreased. In addition, the researchers observed how the new mitochondria moved from stem cells in the neighboring the damaged cells of the respiratory tract, restoring their function.
The researchers then conducted experiments in animals to investigate potential protective effects. Mice were injected with the stem cells and then treated them the ozone gas to cause oxidative stress, which led to sluggish mitochondria and increased cell death.
After the tests, the researchers found that mice treated with cell therapy, after 24 hours there was a reduction of inflammation in the lung, indicating that the same protective effect is observed in human cells.
The study shows that certain side effects of cigarette smoke or ozone may be removed by treatment with stem cells. According to the authors, as in the lungs of patients with asthma may have a similar cellular damage that in COPD, a cell-based treatment to help both groups of patients.
The group received funding to further the process of the study, when the mitochondria moved from stem cells into lung cells, which will improve future cell therapies.