The official blog of the Lung Institute.
Using Stem Cells to Treat Black Lung
Depending on the part of the country you live in, black lung disease may be something that you are not familiar with at all. For those living in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States, particularly Pennsylvania, Kentucky, West Virginia and Tennessee, black lung disease is a well-known pulmonary condition. In large cities, like Pittsburgh, black lung cases fill doctor’s offices and courtrooms.
What is Black Lung Disease?
Pneumoconiosis, the medical term for black lung disease, is a form of interstitial lung disease (ILD). The lungs become visibly blackened by the inhalation of coal dust over long periods of time. The result is heavy scarring in the lungs including: damage to the walls of air sacs responsible for exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide and an overall stiffening of the lungs, which reduces their ability to expand with air. The result is very poor lung function. The oxygen you inhale doesn’t get properly exchanged in the lungs’ air sacs, so your blood oxygen level falls, affecting all of your organs negatively. Also, with the elasticity of the lungs compromised, the overall capacity of the lungs is decreased, which adds to the detrimental effects of the disease.
Black Lung Disease in Pittsburgh
Coal mines have been active in Western Pennsylvania since the late 1700s. The hillside of Mount Washington is nicknamed “Coal Hill” because of the mass amounts of coal mined and used by the city of Pittsburgh just across the Monongahela River. As the need for steel grew in the mid 1800s, coal production skyrocketed, and the mines were hyperactive all the way until the late 20th century.
The more coal that was needed, the more workers spent time down in the mines. Black lung was nearly inevitable for the miners up until the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act. It is still possible to develop black lung, but mining companies now have to offer benefits for those that are disabled by black lung disease.
Stem Cell Therapy for Black Lung Disease
Black lung disease is considered an interstitial lung disease. It is treatable with stem cell therapy at the Lung Institute. Stem cells are the building blocks of life; they are essential to every living organism. They are able to self-renew and replicate—with the ability to differentiate into any type of tissue in the body. Adult stem cells from one organ are able to create tissue for another organ; this is called plasticity. This is key to their function in regenerative medicine.
Stem cells can be extracted from a patient’s own blood or bone marrow and used to promote healing. Results may include an increase in quality of life, less dependency on supplemental oxygen and even the return of some lung function.
If you or a loved one suffers from an occupational lung disease like black lung disease in Pittsburgh or pneumoconiosis, contact the Lung Institute to find out if stem cell therapy can help get your life back within reach. Contact the Lung Institute by calling (800) 729-3065 to learn more.