The official blog of the Lung Institute.
The words “stem cell therapy” probably carry some sort of preconceived notions on your part. Whether you’ve heard stem cells mentioned as a political buzzword or in reference to new medical treatments, there is no denying the recent attention paid to these words. With the phenomenon recently growing around stem cells, many people assume the history of stem cell therapy is only a short-lived story. However, stem cell therapy has been conducted since the 1950s.
The First Stem Cell Therapy
Physicians have known for decades that leukemia affects the blood and specifically the production of white blood cells in the body. Dr. E. Donnall Thomas was on the forefront of bone marrow research, and in the late 1950s he discovered that transplanting bone marrow tissue, rich with stem cells, could help fight the disease. In Cooperstown, New York he performed the first bone marrow transplant between identical twins. Medical advancements at the time only allowed for an identical twin to donate bone marrow due to commonality of rejection.
Stem Cell Therapy in the ‘60s and ‘70s
A decade after Dr. Thomas performed the fist stem cell therapy, physicians developed protocols that allowed for the first allogeneic transplant, or transplant between two people that were not twins. However, even in this case, the donor was a sibling of the transplant recipient. It wasn’t until 1973 that the first non-related transplant took place. By this time, a blood bank in Denmark was able to match a donor and recipient.
Stem Cell Therapy Today
When the body becomes injured or develops a disease, stem cells are carried through the blood to the area and begin a natural healing process. They promote healing and restore any functionality that had been lost. Unfortunately this process is slow, and the healing may take longer than it takes the disease to progress and spread. For those suffering from leukemia, the replacement of diseased bone marrow with healthy tissue may help the body to help fight the disease. A similar positive reaction can be found for those who are suffering from lung diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and interstitial lung disease.
Stem cells can be taken from the patient’s own body, eliminating the risk of rejection, processed in a lab, and then reintroduced into the body to help treat lung disease. This process gives the patient a stronger chance to expedite the healing process. Although this treatment does not cure the disease, many patients report an increased in quality of life, and some even show a return of lung function through their regular pulmonary function tests (PFTs).
If you or a loved one suffers from COPD or pulmonary fibrosis, the Lung Institute may be able to help. Contact us by calling (800) 729-3065 to pre-qualify for stem cell therapy and get your questions answered.