How Can Stem Cells Help Emphysema?
What is Emphysema?
Emphysema is a major obstructive lung disease that fits under the umbrella of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It consists of the gradual destruction of air sacs called alveoli in the lungs, making it more difficult to breathe over time. These tiny cluster-like sacs are responsible for bringing oxygen to the bloodstream. As emphysema progresses, the inner walls of the alveoli form holes weakening their structure, and oxygen cannot reach the bloodstream as well. Additionally, emphysema destroys the elasticity of the airways leading to the air sacs. Individuals with emphysema are consistently struggling to breathe and have constant shortness of breath. Stem cell therapies for emphysema are an up-and-coming choice for people suffering from this condition.
Therapies for Emphysema
Sadly, there is not a cure for emphysema, but the disease can still be treated. The primary recommendation by many pulmonologists are lifestyle modifications—stop smoking and stay away from smoky environments. A physician may suggest a specific combination of bronchodilators and steroids to help expand airways, reduce shortness of breath and, ultimately, increase airflow to and from the lungs. Emphysema may be treated with a directive of aerobic exercise and nutrition support. Supplemental oxygen may be prescribed for individuals with severe emphysema. There are times that a physician may recommend a more invasive alternative such as a lung transplant, but this often has limited availability and extensive requirements for procedure eligibility. Unfortunately, no one therapy can actually improve lung function, but rather they are used deter the progression of the condition…until now. A group of physicians have determined that the use of stem cells can have a positive effect in treating emphysema and other pulmonary conditions.
What are Stem Cells?
Stem cells make up all living organisms. They have the ability for self-renewal and replication, and are capable of forming any type of tissue or organ in the body. Moreover, adult stem cells from one organ are capable of forming tissue for another organ, which is called plasticity. It has been discovered that adult stem cells are capable of being transferred into any organ of the body.
Stem Cell Therapies for Emphysema
In the case of emphysema, autologous stem cells are used, meaning they come from the patient’s body, and can be found in adult venous blood and bone marrow. Stem cells derived from bone marrow or blood have the capacity to form many types of differentiated cells. During the simple procedure, stem cell treatments involve harvesting adult stem cells from bone marrow and blood requiring special laboratory techniques to collect them. After extraction from the patient’s body, they are then processed and isolated. They are then given back to the patient intravenously. The treatment is minimally invasive and performed as an outpatient procedure. The procedure should be performed in a clinical setting under the supervision of a professional. It takes specific training to perform stem cell therapy adequately and safely.