Living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can make life more challenging than it has to be. Symptoms like shortness of breath and uncontrollable coughing spells are some of the most common manifestations of COPD.
COPD Treatment and Etiology
More than ten million Americans may be suffering from COPD, and as many as 24 million adults in the United States may be living with severely impaired lung function. People suffering from COPD are often diagnosed with emphysema and chronic bronchitis, which are the two most prevalent forms of COPD today.
Although there is still no commonly accepted cure for COPD, the disease can be treated in a number of ways to help curb the approximately three million fatalities that occur every year because of COPD.
The etiology of COPD, however, is complex and involves a combination of environmental factors (e.g., smoking and exposure to air pollutants) and genetics. That said, there are ways to mitigate some of COPD’s symptoms and improve lung functioning.
Bronchodilators, inhalers and steroids can help relieve COPD symptoms, although research in stem cells is showing how the regenerative power of stem cells can help subside the inflammatory processes that exacerbate COPD in the first place.
Stem Cell Therapy and COPD
The research on stem cell therapy as a COPD treatment is showing promise as a way for patients to regain lung function and curb the inflammation that worsens COPD symptoms.
Stem cells are undifferentiated (unspecified) cells that can evolve into healthy tissue. For COPD sufferers, stem cells coming from FAT and bone marrow can be used to build healthier lung tissue and ease COPD symptoms.
The research on stem cells and COPD, though, is so promising thus far because stem cells appear to allow COPD sufferers to grow new lung tissue without their bodies rejecting the stem cells as a foreign entity.
Promise for Embryonic Stem Cells
In fact, among the two types of stem cells being studied for the treatment of COPD – embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells – embryonic stem cells are being pursued more rigorously as a COPD treatment for two reasons.
Firstly, embryonic stem cells go through division, or mitosis, more easily, which means that embryonic stem cells could reduce inflammation and create more healthy lung tissue faster for COPD sufferers. Secondly, embryonic stem cells have a less likely chance than adult stem cells of being rejected as a foreign entity by the recipient.
There are currently a number of clinical trials underway in the United States attempting to prove the efficacy of treating COPD with stem cell therapy, yet the American Lung Association cautions that this research is in the preliminary stages.
That said, the American Lung Association and the Mayo Clinic both note that stem cell therapy offers promise in treating conditions like stroke and diabetes. Moreover, stem cell therapy has already yielded positive results in reducing lung inflammation and creating healthier lung tissue in animal studies.
Stem Cell Therapy and Symptom Reduction
Stem cell therapy for COPD works to help COPD sufferers in a few surprising ways. If approved, stem cell therapy could help COPD sufferers by the stem cells’ ability to do the following: safeguard existing lung tissue; enhance the production of regional growth factors; aid the regeneration of the lung’s blood vessels; and, finally, reduce an inflammatory response in the lungs.
Again, though, stem cell therapy for COPD has not been approved in the United States and could present some side effects, such as the formation of tumors or immune system rejection. Clinical studies are currently underway in the US, and the results look promising for COPD sufferers.