Promising News About Stem Cell Therapy For COPD
Stem cell therapy has generated quite a buzz in this community. The hope is it will improve lung function, make breathing easier, or even cure our disease. One particular type of stem cell therapy is called Remestemcel-L. Phase 2 trials do look promising. Here’s what to know.
What is stem cell therapy?
For the basics of stem cell therapy, you can read my post, “Let’s Investigate Stem Cell Treatment.” Or you can check out my article, “Stem Cell Therapy Terms To Know.” These articles should give you a good overview of what stem cell therapy is. They should help you see how it might benefit us if proven safe and effective.
Previously, I defined stem cells as undifferentiated cells. This means they are not mature yet. They have yet to be told what type of cell to become. They have yet to be told what to do and can become any type of cell you want. They have the potential to become differentiated cells. These are cells that have a specific function. In our case, we are interested in lung cells or immune cells.
What is Remestemcel-L?
A special form of stem cells is called mesenchymal cells. They are special stem cells because they can become many different types of cells, such as lung cells or immune cells. They are drawn from adult bone marrow with a syringe. They are put in an environment where they are allowed to replicate in a lab.1-2
Remestemcel-L is a treatment that contains over 100 mesenchymal stem cells. It is given by infusion (injected into a vein). Early studies show it has a strong effect on your immune system. This is important because COPD is caused by your immune system. You can read more in my post, “COPD Is An Immune Response.”3
Essentially, COPD is caused by inhaling harmful substances. Your immune system recognizes these chemicals as harmful. It tells immune cells to secrete pro-inflammatory chemicals. These chemicals cause inflammation of lung tissue. Normally, these chemicals go away when the chemicals are removed from your body. But, if inhaled day after day, these pro-inflammatory chemicals stay in your lungs. Their levels become elevated. When they stay in your lungs long-term, they can cause damage to lung tissue. This is what causes COPD. It’s what causes loss of lung function over time.
C-reactive protein (CRP) is one of these pro-inflammatory chemicals. It stays elevated in people with COPD. A CRP level greater than 2 is considered to be severe inflammation.3
What are studies showing?
Studies so far look promising. Sixty-two COPD patients were chosen to participate in a 2020 study. They each had to undergo some testing:
- Blood Testing. This was to determine their CRP level.
- Pulmonary Function Testing (PFT). This was to determine their lung function.
- 6-Minute Walk. This was to determine how far they can walk in six minutes. It’s to determine your exercise capacity.
The subjects were divided into two groups.
- Experimental group. They receive the actual treatment. They receive Remestemcel-L
- Control group. They receive a fake treatment called a placebo
Members of both groups received an infusion each month. This means they either received Remestamcel-L or a placebo. Another term for this is a randomized study. This is because volunteers do not know if they are getting the medicine or placebo. This was done for four months. After completion, all subjects were followed for two years. Follow-up tests were done to monitor their CRP level, lung function, and exercise capacity.
The study was concluded in 2020. The data was compiled and studied. They showed that Remestemcel-L significantly improved lung function. It also significantly improved exercise capacity. These results were most significant in patients with high CRP levels.
This indicates that Remestemcel-L so far looks promising. This is especially true for those with severe inflammation or high CRP levels. There are more studies ongoing and in the works.
A future treatment option?
Keep in mind that Remestemcel-L is just one form of stem cell therapy. Keep in mind that this is just one study. And also keep in mind that more studies will be required before Remestemcel-L can be reviewed by the FDA. Still, Remestemcel-L looks like a promising potential treatment for COPD. Perhaps in the future, it will be a treatment option worth discussing with your COPD physician.
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