Stem cells may heal damaged lungs

Israeli scientists have transplanted embryonic stem cells in mice to successfully produce healthy lung tissues. The research offers hope to use embryonic stem cells to repair damaged lung tissues in humans in the near future.  Certain stem cells normally residing in the lungs are highly similar to those in the bone marrow. “These results show that we might be able to apply our knowledge of techniques for transplanting bone marrow stem cells and repair lung tissue,” said professor Yair Reisner from Weizmann Institute of Science`s immunology department in Israel. For the study, the embryonic stem cells were injected into mouse models of lung damage.

The embryonic lung stem cells managed to find their way through the blood to the lungs and settle into the proper lung compartment, the study said in a paper appeared in the journal Nature Medicine.By six weeks, these cells were differentiating into normal lung tissue. The damaged lungs healed in the mice and their breathing improved significantly.

The team intends to determine the correct dosage of drugs that are needed to prevent rejection of the transplanted cells.

“Our real vision is to create a bank of lung tissue that will be a resource for embryonic lung stem cells,” Reisner said.

The results can help alleviate diseases of the airways such as bronchitis, asthma, cystic fibrosis and chronic respiratory disease, among others.

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