The official blog of the Lung Institute.
We receive many different types of questions at the Lung Institute. A common and important frequently asked question is “how does stem cell therapy work?” For people living with chronic lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or pulmonary fibrosis, the search for effective treatment options can be challenging as well as rewarding. Traditional treatment options, such as medications, inhalers, pulmonary rehabilitation and oxygen therapy only work to manage lung disease symptoms. In contrast, stem cell therapy works to promote healing from within the lungs, addressing the disease at its source.
What are stem cells?
Your body is filled with a variety of cells, and different cells perform different tasks in the body. For example, your red blood cells contain a special protein called hemoglobin, which helps carry oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body, and then returns carbon dioxide from your body to your lungs to be exhaled. Another example of a cell is a white blood cell, which helps protect your body from infections.
Because every cell in your body has its own special tasks, stem cells also have their own specialties. Stem cells are the building blocks of life, and they are your body’s foundation. Stem cells can self-renew and self-replicate. Naturally occurring in your body, they can even transform and diversify into other cell types, and they can be found in blood and bone marrow. Because stem cells are drawn to areas of damage, they serve as a natural method of promoting healing from within.
How do stem cells work?
Simply put, stem cells are your body’s natural healing system. For example, when you get a cut, stem cells are alerted to go to that area to help it heal. When something, such as medication, blood or stem cells, is introduced to your body through an IV, it goes directly to the right side of your heart. Within only a beat or two, it is pushed through your heart and straight to your lungs. Then, your blood distributes it throughout the rest of your body. However, stem cells are a little different when put through an IV.
After your stem cells are extracted and then separated, they are reintroduced to your body through an IV. When they are reintroduced to your body, they become trapped in the lungs in a location called the pulmonary trap. Once in the pulmonary trap, the stem cells aggregate in the areas of the lungs that need them, working to promote healing from within the lungs.
What can stem cell therapy do for me?
Unlike traditional treatment options which only manage symptoms, stem cell therapy works to directly address disease progression, potentially improving lung function. For people who are living with a chronic lung disease, regaining their quality of life is important. Many patients have seen improvements in their abilities to walk with more ease, exercise, go to the store, perform daily tasks and carry a conversation. In fact, some patients reduce or even come off of their oxygen therapy after stem cell therapy. If you or a loved one has COPD, emphysema, pulmonary fibrosis or another chronic lung disease and would like to learn more about treatment options, contact us at (800) 729-3065.