Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a group of lung diseases that obstruct the airflow and causes difficulty breathing. Emphysema is one of the most common variations of COPD and is characterized by the deterioration of lung tissue and chronic inflammation of the airways. Unfortunately, COPD conditions are progressive in nature and there is currently no cure for the illnesses, though treatments are available to control symptoms. In an attempt to better manage COPD and its effects, researchers have begun looking into regenerative medicine, also known as stem cell therapy, as an alternative treatment option for managing symptoms and potentially regenerating tissues.
The Nature of COPD
In its earliest stages, COPD may present symptoms such as a persistent cough and labored breathing. Over time, the condition progresses through stages, in which breathing becomes increasingly more challenging. Lung tissue damage accelerates, and while the disease generally develops gradually, many patients experience a sudden worsening of symptoms. The reduction of lung capacity increases the risk for other issues as well, including diminished muscle endurance, stroke, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Characteristics of Emphysema
Emphysema is a type of COPD with its unique characteristics. In this condition, the alveoli, or small air sacs in the lung, become over-inflated, retaining “old” air and thus impeding the ability to take in new, fresh air. The walls of the alveoli can then break down, resulting in breathlessness and decreased oxygen being delivered to critical organs.
Smoking is a leading cause of emphysema, but environmental and genetic factors may also contribute to COPD in general.
Stem Cell Therapy for COPD
The challenge of existing medications for COPD is that they simply control symptoms without actually improving the condition. In regards to lung transplants, there are also major barriers, including the invasiveness of the procedure and the widespread shortage of donor tissue.
Across the globe, researchers are now studying stem cell therapy as a regenerative medicine approach for COPD. Stem cell transplants provide a minimally invasive alternative for potentially repairing the damaged tissue inside the lungs. With the cells’ powerful regenerative properties, damaged tissue is slowly restored, and lung capacity is thereby increased. Patients are then able to breathe with greater ease. The degree of tissue damage may determine if more than one treatment may be needed.
Experts are leveraging mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) to target lung tissue to potentially halt or slow the disease’s progression as well as help in symptom management. The stem cells leverage a unique immunomodulatory effect to reduce inflammation, repair tissue, and optimize lung function. Eligible patients may be able to follow stem cell therapy with post-treatment lung rehabilitation to maximize their results.
This post was written by Becky Palmer, a medical professional at Stemedix Inc. At Stemedix we provide access to Regenerative Medicine. Regenerative medicine has the natural potential to help improve symptoms sometimes lost from the progression of many conditions.