The official blog of the Lung Institute.
Is COPD this Generation’s Polio or Small Pox?
Revolutionary medical treatments arise once in a great while, and once enough time passes to allow them to be thoroughly tried and tested, the general public develops trust in new ways of dealing with disease. Let’s look at two of the most important medical advancements in human history, the cures for smallpox and polio, each conquered by medical science, and then discuss a third disease for which cutting-edge treatment techniques are working right now– chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Smallpox is a deadly disease that has plagued humankind during all of recorded history. Once accepted as an unavoidable risk of being alive, smallpox is today virtually non-existent in the developed world, thanks to widespread vaccination. The first successful smallpox vaccine was introduced by Edward Jenner in 1796. He observed that milkmaids who had previously contracted cowpox did not later catch smallpox and showed that inoculated cowpox protected against inoculated smallpox.
The term vaccination was first used in print by Jenner’s friend, Richard Dunning in 1800. Initially, the terms vaccine/vaccination referred only to smallpox, but in 1881, Louis Pasteur proposed that to honor Jenner the terms be widened to cover all new protective inoculations being introduced. The new technology took time to be implemented widely and longer to be generally trusted by less educated people around the world, but it was a medical innovation that changed the world for the better.
Polio vaccines are used to prevent poliomyelitis (polio). One type uses inactivated poliovirus and is given by injection (IPV), while the other type uses weakened poliovirus and is given by mouth (OPV). The two vaccines have eliminated polio from most of the world and reduced cases each year from an estimated 350,000 in 1988 to 359 in 2014.
Until 1955, when the Jonas Salk introduced the IPV, polio was one of the most frightening public health problems on Earth. The post-WWII United States suffered from increasingly devastating annual epidemics. The 1952 epidemic was the worst in American history. Of about 58,000 cases reported that year, 3,145 people died and 21,269 were left with some level of paralysis. Most of the victims were children.
The oral polio vaccine was developed by Albert Sabin and came into commercial use in 1961. Polio vaccines are on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines, the most important medication needed in a basic health system. The World Health Organization recommends the polio vaccine for all children, yet even today, there are corners of the world in which the uneducated resist modern medical treatments.
COPD is the third leading cause of death in the United States. More than 11 million people have been diagnosed with COPD, but an estimated 24 million may have the disease without even knowing it. COPD causes serious long-term disability and early death. At this time there is no cure, and the number of people dying from COPD is growing.
The potential implications of stem cell-based regenerative medicine are immensely promising. Most stem cell therapies, such as therapy provided by the Lung Institute, use adult stem cells. These “blank” cells can differentiate into any cell type in the body, and are already being used to promote healing in the lungs of people suffering from chronic lung disease. Since these cells are derived from patients themselves, there is virtually no chance of rejection by the patient’s body.
Patients suffering from degenerative lung disease are already experiencing the benefits of stem cell therapy and seeing improvements in their quality of life.
If you suffer from symptoms of chronic lung disease and would like to find out whether stem cell therapy can improve your quality of life, contact one of our patient care coordinators today at (800) 729-3065 to schedule a free consultation.