Stem Cells Help Repair Injured Lungs

In a collaborative study between Singapore and the US, researchers have demonstrated that stem cells can be used to regenerate damaged lung tissue.

AsianScientist (Dec. 8, 2017) – Scientists in Singapore and the US have developed a method to partially repair damaged lungs using stem cells. They published their findings in Nature Methods.

Viral infections, asthma, cystic fibrosis and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis are among the many diseases that can damage the lungs. Currently, there is a dearth of regenerative therapies for lung diseases. The only treatment for end-stage lung diseases is the transplantation of a new lung, but lung transplants are in short supply.

In this study, a team of researchers led by Dr. Lim Bing, a Senior Group Leader at the Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS), and Dr. Kyle Loh, the Siebel Investigator at Stanford University in the US, demonstrated that lung stem cells can be grown in large numbers in a petri dish. Upon injection into toxin-injured lungs of laboratory mice, these lung stem cells were able to regenerate lung tissue, such as airway and alveolar tissue.

The researchers found that a single lung stem cell placed in a petri dish could duplicate many times, generating 1020 billion new lung stem cells over the course of six months. Upon injection into the toxin-injured lungs of laboratory mice, these lung stem cells could regenerate new airway and alveolar lung tissue.

“Scientists have previously had little success in putting new lung cells into damaged lung to regenerate healthy lung tissue,” explained Loh. “This study is a first step towards future lung regenerative therapies. It also paves the way for future work that focuses on whether analogous stem cells can be found and cultivated from humans, which may open the way to eventually replenishing damaged lung tissue in the clinic.”

Dr. Massimo Nichane of Stanford University, who is the first author of the paper, added that this work with lung stem cells may allow scientists to ‘reconstruct’ the lung after injury. The researchers hope that this new type of regenerative medicine may offer definitive treatments for otherwise incurable diseases.

“This [method] may well address one of the most important medical issues. Life expectancy and quality will improve significantly if a damaged lung can be repaired, rather than having a patient wait for a replacement organ,” said Executive Director of GIS, Professor Ng Huck Hui.

The article can be found at: Nichane et al. (2017) Isolation and 3D Expansion of Multipotent Sox9+ Mouse Lung Progenitors.


Source: A*STAR; Photo: Shutterstock.
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