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In response to the limitation of current treatments of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), researchers have posted that stem cells may be a good option for patients who suffer from COPD. One of the key characteristics of COPD is inflammation seen in the lungs, and this inflammation leads to tissue destruction. Thus, researchers have tried to zero in on stem cells that could help minimize inflammation. In a recent study published in Scientific Reports, researchers show that certain stem cells can reverse inflammation and also demonstrate, at a molecular level, how the stem cells achieved this challenge.
For the study, researchers chose to use bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells because this type of stem cell has reliably been shown to repair tissue that has been damaged by heart attacks or strokes. Further, clinical trials have shown that these cells can be used in COPD patients safely and are associated with a reduction in C-reactive protein (CRP). CRP is a prognostic marker, with higher levels indicating a worse prognosis in COPD patients.
Given the promise of bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells in the treatment of COPD, the researchers aimed to help clarify the mechanism by which these stem cells may achieve their positive impacts on COPD patients. Such information would be useful when developing specific treatment protocols for this group of patients.
The researchers found that the stem cells did, in fact, reduce inflammation of the airway by inhibiting the action of an enzyme called cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2). The suppression of COX-2 is known to be associated with relief of both inflammation and pain. The study also suggests that this suppression may specifically occur within macrophages, which play a role in inflammation.
These results help to solidify the idea that stem cell therapy can be useful for COPD treatment and point to a mechanism by which the use of stem cells could achieve the clinical goal of improved COPD symptoms and pathology. Further research into this mechanism may help researchers optimize stem cell interventions for COPD.