The official blog of the Lung Institute.

Leonard Nimoy and His Battle with COPD

Leonard Nimoy and His Battle with COPD

Leonard Nimoy and His Battle with COPD

Upon being diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and shortly before his death on Feb. 27, 2015, actor Leonard Nimoy tweeted, “Not soon enough.” He was referring to his decision to quit smoking. Nimoy, made famous by playing Spock in Star Trek, had quit 30 years before, but the damage to his lungs had already been done. Nimoy told music artist Pharrell Williams last year in an interview, “I flunked chemistry in high school.” So, perhaps the elder movie star didn’t fully grasp the long-term harmful effects of smoking in his younger days. He spent the final year of his life urging people to benefit from his mistakes and stop smoking now, before it’s too late. The internationally beloved actor was 82 years old.

COPD is the third-leading cause of death in the United States after heart disease and cancer. Some 12 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with COPD, and about another 12 million go undiagnosed.

The symptoms of COPD differ from person to person. Sometimes symptoms progress quickly, sometimes they remain mild to moderate for years before progressing rapidly into the latter stages of the disease. Shortness of breath is the most common complaint of COPD sufferers, other symptoms include:

  • Coughing
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Achy joints
  • Weight loss

There is no known cure for COPD, but the disease can be treated. Many physicians prescribe bronchodilators to help expand airways and allow a greater volume of air into and out of the lungs. It’s common for a COPD treatment plan to include a regimen of breathing and aerobic exercise to rehabilitate some pulmonary function. For people with late-stage COPD, supplemental oxygen is prescribed. Although these treatments are helpful, they do not reverse symptoms. They are used to deter the progression of the disease.

COPD takes years to develop, and despite the decreasing incidence of smoking, the prevalence of COPD is rising. We’re seeing people who started smoking in the 1960s reporting to their doctors with degenerative lung diseases.

Nimoy, to his great credit, took precious time from his last days among us to issue a warning. Many of us smoke in our younger years before the eventual realization that we’re mortal, and that we need to take care of our health. The trouble with degenerative lung disease is that it’s impossible to know at what point enough damage has been done to the lungs that they will continue to degenerate, eventually resulting in a COPD diagnosis.

Funding for research on curing lung disease has perhaps been limited by a sort of stigma carried by smoking-related illnesses — that patients only have themselves to blame. People deserve the best treatment they can get. We have to keep in mind that many started smoking while they were minors, and it’s well know now that “Big Tobacco” targeted successful marketing campaigns to children for decades. Today, we can benefit from treatment options that were unavailable to past generations, such as the innovative practice of using adult, autologous cells to boost the human body’s natural ability to heal itself.
These cells are derived from the patient’s own body, and are found in bone marrow and in the patient’s venous blood. Cells derived from bone marrow or blood can form many types of differentiated cells. During the procedure, cells are extracted in the lab from the bone marrow and blood. Once extracted, they are isolated. The cells are then re-introduced to the patient intravenously. The treatment is a minimally-invasive outpatient procedure performed in a clinical setting under the supervision of a trained professional.

If you suffer from COPD symptoms and would like to find out whether cellular therapy can improve your quality of life, contact one of our patient care coordinators today at (800) 729-3065 to schedule a free consultation.



  1. Lung Institute

    2 months ago


    First and foremost, we’d like to thank you for your question. Unfortunately, at this time traditional insurance companies such as HMO’s and Medicare have not yet begun to cover cell therapy as a form of treatment. However, this doesn’t mean that cell therapy is necessarily out of reach. For more information, please give us a call at (855) 313-1149 to speak with one of our patient coordinators on a few alternative methods to cover treatment.


    The Lung Institute

  2. Steve Wheeles

    2 months ago

    I am in end stage copd. Will cell therapy work for me? I am on medicare and medicade. Will that pay for it?

  3. Phoebe

    11 months ago

    Hi Deborah,

    We’re happy to answer your questions about cellular therapy for COPD. We have a dedicated medical team who have a wealth of knowledge about cellular therapy, treatment options, candidacy, cost and more. So, feel free to give us a call at (855) 313-1149. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

    Best Regards,

    The Lung Institute

  4. Deborah

    11 months ago

    H I noticed your site on my phone today and read everything on copd. I was diagnosed with copd about 8 years ago am on oxygen . I began smoking at age 21 and am 57 years old. I am very interested in your cell progress and would like to be part of it. I don’t have the finances available to me to afford such treatment is it covered by by health insurance? Thank you.

  5. Pingback: Lung Institute Partners with AHEC | Lung Institute

  6. sh

    2 years ago

    Hi, Matt,

    Thank you for your comment and for sharing some of your story. Please call us at 855-313-1149 for more information and to find out whether you’re a candidate for cell therapy. Speaking with one of our patient coordinators should yield answers to your questions.

    We hope to hear from you soon.

    The Lung Institute

  7. Matt

    2 years ago

    I started smoking when I was 12 and quit at age 40, At 48 I was diagnosed with Emphysema and COPD, I would be interested in Stem Cell Therapy but I have had a spontaneous pneumothorax in each lung at age 16. I had the Blebs removed and Galvanized staples inserted in each Lung which are stapled to the lining of my Chest wall. Would like to know if Stem Cell Therapy would be good for me or Not.? Any information would be most helpful. Thanks

  8. sh

    2 years ago

    Dear Cheryl,

    I’m so sorry to hear of your loss. Quitting tobacco under stress is certainly extra-difficult…but necessary. Have you considered smoking cessation classes? Some communities may even offer them free of charge. Don’t lose heart or hope. Please do seek help to quit smoking.

    Best Regards

  9. Cheryl Chase

    2 years ago

    I started smoking when I was 14 and I am 70 1/2 now. I’ve had lung cancer and I have COPD. I stopped smoking for 8 months and with the death of my husband a year and a 1/2 ago, I took up smoking again and smoke more then a pack a day. Can’t seem to give it up now. I’m retired and home alone a lot and I am so frustrated that I can’t quit! I’ve tried the patch, the gum, the lozenges and none of it works. I feel like such a loser.

  10. sh

    2 years ago

    Hello, Nancy.
    According to the National Institutes of Health,

    …the initial lung damage that leads to bronchiectasis often begins in childhood. However, symptoms may not occur until months or even years after you start having repeated lung infections.

    In the United States, common childhood infections—such as whooping cough and measles—used to cause many cases of bronchiectasis. However, these causes are now less common because of vaccines and antibiotics.

    Now bronchiectasis usually is due to a medical condition that injures the airway walls or prevents the airways from clearing mucus. Examples of such conditions include cystic fibrosis and primary ciliary dyskinesia, or PCD.

    Bronchiectasis that affects only one part of the lung may be caused by a blockage rather than a medical condition.

    Bronchiectasis can be congenital or acquired. Congenital bronchiectasis affects infants and children. It’s the result of a problem with how the lungs form in a fetus.

    Acquired bronchiectasis occurs as a result of another condition or factor. This type of bronchiectasis can affect adults and older children. Acquired bronchiectasis is more common than the congenital type.

    We suggest you seek the advice of your doctor about any symptoms you may be experiencing, since we aren’t able to dispense medical advice in this forum. If you have been diagnosed with bronchiectasis, the Lung Institute may be able to help. We invite you to contact us at 1-855-313-1149 to speak with a patient coordinator about possible treatment options.

    Best Regards,
    The Lung Institute

  11. Nancy

    2 years ago

    Does smoking cause bronchiectasis? Or is it one of other risk factors?

    Does salt inhalation help bronchiectasis?

  12. sh

    2 years ago

    Hello, Furie.

    We’re so glad to hear your pulmonologist has noticed a difference in your ability to breathe better, and we hope you’ll continue to see improvements in your life following treatment. There’s nothing like the love of a good dog–he clearly wants to be near you.

    We’re happy to hear from you and wish you continued improvement.

    Best Regards,
    The Lung Institute

  13. Furie

    2 years ago

    Greetings COPD’ ERS…
    Had my visit with my pulmonolgist last week, he did notice a difference in my breathing since my treatment done in Franklin, TN for the Stem Cells…I have noticed a deeper ability to breathe and trying to lengthen my time from not putting on my O2 line , walking and showering longer is helpful… using the nebulizer everyother day which helps also….I just want to get back to my old way of living, not trip over plastic lines and get upset when the lines get stuck under doors or the dog sits and sleeps on the line…Maybe he thinks the line needs the O 2 warmed up ?????

  14. PB

    2 years ago

    Hi Barbara,

    Thank you for your comment and for sharing your story. Here’s another article you might enjoy: https://lunginstitute.com/blog/4-steps-to-improve-quality-of-life/. To better answer your questions, it might be a good idea to talk with your current doctors and discuss any questions or concerns with them. However, you can also contact the Lung Institute at 1-855-313-1149 to speak with a patient coordinator about possible options.

    Best Wishes,

    The Team at the Lung Institute

  15. Barbara

    2 years ago

    My dad was born in 1920. Joined the U.S. Navy 1940 and probably began smoking then. I remember him smoking “Salem” cigarettes. I moved out on my own when married in 1969 but up until 1968 when going to college away from home, I was around the smoking. I married someone who did not smoke, thank goodness. Unfortunately dad had a heart attack in 1979, had emphysema; mom was married to dad in 1948 so she was around the smoke for 30 years. When she passed in 2006 at 94, her death certificate stated cause of death: COPD and congestive heart disease. I have wondered ever since then how much of a chance I will show either of these. When I had a hip replacement (preventative, no fall); I was told by my surgeon that they were a bit concerned about my recovery – breathing wise, that I had shallow breathing. From your extensive experience, would this “shallow” breathing possibly be a sign of COPD? I participate in a work out group now, since I doc weeks post-op, and so working hard to get my aerobic level increased. Please let me know if there is anything I should do to hopefully keep myself in the best health? Thank you in advance. I am 66 this year, no high BP, working on losing weight (50). I look forward to receive any & all helpful advise ments.

  16. PB

    2 years ago

    Hi, Linda,

    Thanks for your comment. We hope you continue to enjoy our blog posts.


    The Team at the Lung Institute

  17. Linda

    2 years ago

    Thank you. It seems like few people care

All claims made regarding the efficacy of Lung Institute's treatments as they pertain to pulmonary conditions are based solely on anecdotal support collected by Lung Institute. Individual conditions, treatment and outcomes may vary and are not necessarily indicative of future results. Testimonial participation is voluntary. Lung Institute does not pay for or script patient testimonials.

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