The official blog of the Lung Institute.
Is it ever too late?
In recent years the use of stem cells for the treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pulmonary fibrosis (PF) and emphysema has shown significant progress in addressing disease symptoms and has shown potential to address progression as well. Utilizing the body’s natural healing mechanisms (pericyte and stem cells) to reduce inflammation within the lungs, stem cell therapy has demonstrated the potential to improve quality of life to those who may have otherwise given up hope.
Although these stem cells are naturally found within the body—in a patient’s blood or bone marrow—for many, the question of whether or not to receive treatment becomes a question of “am I too old for stem cell therapy?”
As stem cell therapy uses the naturally occurring stem cells found within the body, the amount of these cells available as we age is a pertinent question.
With your health in mind, the Lung Institute is here to breakdown the science behind stem cell therapy, how it works and whether the treatment will remain effective as we age.
What Are Stem Cells?
As we mentioned above, stem cells are naturally occurring cells that are produced when the body is damaged from within. As their name implies, stem cells are the base level of any cell—similar to that of a Lego block—meaning they can grow to turn into nearly any available cell the body needs. In the case of stem cell therapy for the treatment of lung disease, in which a patient’s stem cells are extracted and reintroduced into damaged areas of the lungs, these base stem cells develop into the specialized cells necessary to promote internal healing in the lungs. As these stem cells may transform into new alveolar and bronchiole cells, they have the potential to reduce inflammation and smooth airway passages, ultimately allowing for the potential for better breathing and an improvement quality of life.
How Does Stem Cell Therapy Work?
The process of a stem cell treatment is simpler than many may initially picture. As stem cells are naturally occurring cells found latent within the blood or bone marrow, these cells can be extracted and separated before being reintroduced into the body. While ordinarily, fluids reintroduced into the body will circulate throughout, as the heart pumps, these stem cells will become lodged in an area of the lungs called the “pulmonary trap.” As these cells become stuck within this area, they settle and may quickly begin to promote healing from within the lungs. They have the potential to start reducing inflammation and ultimately improving breathing within the lungs airways.
Am I Too Old for Stem Cell Therapy?
For many seeking stem cell therapy, a primary question that can come up is whether the individual is too old for stem cell therapy. The reasoning behind this question is generally whether their age has an effect on the amount of stem cells that can be extracted from their body.
In short, the answer is NO, age does not have a significant effect on the efficacy of stem cell treatment. However, the younger you are, the better.
In a recent 2010 medical paper published in Disease Models & Mechanisms:
“Haematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) are able to repopulate secondary recipients, however they do so at a lower frequency than their younger counterparts.”
Although the amount of latent stem cells within the body may be slightly reduced in someone of advanced age (80s and 90s), there are a variety of methods to increase the population and effectiveness of these stem cells through natural factors.
Through this process of increasing the body’s natural stem cells after removal, the age of a patient is largely irrelevant when considering treatment. Furthermore, given the fact that the application of stem cell therapy contains virtually no risk of rejection by the body or any serious adverse side effects, stem cell therapy continues to stand as a promising treatment option for those living with chronic lung disease.
Taking the Next Steps
Although age is an important consideration when determining whether treatment is right for you, an external repopulation process has overcome the issue of a reduced stem cell population in older patients. In essence, this process will boost the natural population of stem cells within the body when extracted to normal levels, before reintroduction back into the body.
When looking to improves one’s quality of life with lung disease, the first steps should be always be to quit smoking. After that, personal routine and behavior should be addressed with a specific focus on diet and exercise. If these general lifestyle changes are undertaken purposefully, it’s possible to greatly affect the pronouncement of symptoms within your daily life. However, when lifestyle changes fail to improve your quality of life in the way you may expect, it may be time to consider stem cell treatment. Rather than addressing the symptoms of lung disease, stem cell therapy may directly affect disease progression and may improve your quality of life.
If you or a loved one suffers from a chronic lung disease like emphysema, COPD, PF or ILD, the Lung Institute may be able to help with a variety of adult stem cell treatment options. Contact us today at (800) 729-3065 to see if you qualify for stem cell therapy, and find out what stem cell therapy could mean for you.
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