Let's Investigate Stem Cell Treatment
So, they draw your blood. They take it to a lab and extract stems cells from it and do a few other things. A while later they inject these stem cells back into you. They somehow make it to your lungs. Over time your lung tissue regrows and you can breathe easy again. That’s the goal of stem cell therapy. So, what’s the reality?
It certainly does sound promising, doesn’t it? And I certainly hope it becomes a reality, and soon if possible. I don’t even have to imagine how much joy it would bring to people with COPD. I know! I know because I see the glow in their eyes as they tell me about it.
For the duration of their stories, that glow shows me that they feel like kids on Christmas morning. Though, rather than toys, the gift they yearn to receive from Santa is easy breathing. It’s the promise of more years to spend with their own children and grandchildren.
Is this a possibility?
Yes. It is a possibility. Yet it will probably be more complicated than what I described in the opening paragraph. It might involve a transbronchial biopsy. Your doctor will be able to do it in his office, maybe. They put a bronchoscope down your airway and extract lung cells. It has to be lung cells because that’s what you want to regenerate.
Then you go home. You wait.
So, they take these cells into a lab, as noted above. Yes, that part of the dream is true. From here, they do something with your cells. They put them in tubes, perhaps, or Petrie dishes. Then they create an environment where these stem cells replicate. They then wait until there are millions of these stem cells.
Then you go back to your doctor. You are scheduled for an infusion. An infusion is where an IV is inserted into your arm, and a substance (in this case stem cells) is inserted into your venous system.
The nurse inserts an IV into your arm. Then, with the doctor watching, she uses a syringe and draws up your stem cells from a vial. Of course, this vial has your name on it. It’s your stem cells after all. And then they are injected into your IV right into your venous blood system.
Millions of lung stem cells are racing through your bloodstream now. They travel up your arm. They take the turn towards your aorta and heart. Finally, they make it into your lungs. Here they feel at home and begin to work their magic: They start replacing and repairing lung tissue. Your lungs begin the healing process.
Future infusions would also be needed. It might be once a week, once a month, or maybe even once a year.
So, what’s the reality?
Right now, researchers are in the testing phase. They are doing these experiments on mice. They have seen promising results. They have seen that more healthy lung cells have grown in mice. They have seen less inflammation and less fibrosis of airways. Yes, these are promising results.
But, mice are not humans. So, what happens in mice doesn’t always happen in humans. Sometimes, results in mice occur without adventitious side effects. But, sometimes, when these same tests are performed on humans, different things happen.
So, further studies are definitely needed.
But, it’s a start. It’s a very promising start when it comes to stem cells for COPD.
And there’s more!!!
There are other stem cell strategies researchers are working on too. For instance, unlike blood products, our bodies may not reject stem cells from other people. So, it’s possible a future approach may involve stem cell banks similar to blood banks. Plus there are other types of stem cells that may prove useful for COPD.
So, there’s still lots of work to do in labs. There still lots of studies to be done before researchers can advance to the next step.
The next step will be to find human subjects. This has yet to happen. Researchers are not at this step yet. At some point in the near future, they will call for volunteers. And they will learn if this dream becomes a reality. It certainly sounds promising. And we certainly hope it becomes a reality, and soon.
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