Science

Scientists recreate lung with stem cells

Chinese scientists have announced a breakthrough in the treatment of lung disease, which allows patients with respiratory organ damage to breathe normally.

Researchers in regenerative medicine at the University of Tongji in collaboration with doctors at Shanghai University Hospital have successfully transplanted adult stem cells to reconstruct a patient’s diseased lung. The stem cells were taken from the patient’s bronchi and examined millions of times in vivo prior to transplantation.

After three to six months, new alveoli and bronchi are developed to improve lung function. The results of the research team were published as the first issue in the latest issue of the journal Protein and Cell.

A 67-year-old patient was one of the first to undergo this procedure. Two years ago, he was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, a respiratory disease in which scarring is formed in the lungs, causing severe dyspnea. Pulmonary fibrosis is characterized by irreversible and progressive damage to the lung tissue, and the drugs have little effect.

Therefore, transplants have so far been the only solution to the problem. However, organ transplants are very limited due to lack of donors. Indicatively in 2017 only 299 were performed in twenty Chinese hospitals.

Lung diseases are the third leading cause of death worldwide, and 11% of Chinese over 40 years of age have a problem with their lungs. After two years of experimentation with mice, the researchers found that the stem cells from the airway epithelium were more effective than others. Over the past two years, more than 80 lung problems have been transplanted with stem cells.

This research group is now studying ways of regenerating the liver, kidneys and uterus. They even say happy to see many patients recover quickly and return to their normal lives.