Editors' ChoiceEmphysema

Stem Cell Therapy Works (in Mice Models of Emphysema)!

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Science Translational Medicine  16 Feb 2011:
Vol. 3, Issue 70, pp. 70ec19
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3002208

Emphysema—a deadly progressive respiratory disease commonly caused by smoking—is associated with lung cell death, breathlessness, and wheezing. There are currently no effective treatments; some patients require daily oxygen supplemention. Certain studies indicate that stem cell therapy may be beneficial for such patients, possibly eliminating the need for oxygen therapy. Now, Schweitzer et al. demonstrate efficacy of human adipose–derived stem cells and autologous mouse adipose–derived stem cells (ASCs) for the treatment of experimental models of emphysema.

In this study, the authors used two mouse emphysema models: In one, the condition was induced by cigarette smoke, and in the other, by the inhibition of vascular endothelial growth factor receptors. The authors demonstrated that ASCs persisted in the airways for more than 3 weeks after being injected systematically. Treatment with ASCs reduced cigarette smoke–induced infiltration of inflammatory cells and remarkably decreased lung cell death and airspace enlargement in both models. More importantly, ASC treatment preserved the function of bone marrow–derived progenitor cells—cells that are suppressed by cigarette smoke that might otherwise help repair the lung—and prevented weight loss, indicating that the benefits extended beyond the lung. This result is exciting because emphysema-associated weight loss indicates poor prognosis and is so far irreversible and untreatable. The effects of ASC treatment were recapitulated by the conditioned media used to culture the cells, suggesting that paracrine factors secreted from these cells play a role. Thus, ASCs may engage multiple mechanisms, such as production of antiapoptotic factors that protect resident lung cells, activation of endogenous progenitor cells, and preservation of pulmonary repair process by direct differentiation into pulmonary endothelial and epithelial cells or by rescue of the circulating cells involved in lung repair. Because ASCs are readily available, highly proliferative resident cells of the adipose tissue and easily expanded clonally in vitro, they may emerge as a promising potential intervention for treating emphysema.

K. S. Schweitzer et al., Adipose stem cell treatment in mice attenuates lung and systemic injury induced by cigarette smoking. Am. J. Respir. Crit. Care Med. 183, 215–225 (2011). [Abstract]

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