A group of Chinese scientists has demonstrated the possibility of using stem cells to restore the respiratory capacity of COPD patients.
A group of researchers has shown that this is possible repair damaged lung tissue in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is using patients’ own lung cells in a new attempt to ‘repair’ the damage left by tobacco.
At the annual meeting of the European Respiratory Society in Milan, Wei Zuo’s team from the Faculty of Medicine of Tongji University (Shanghai) told how this cell therapy worked in a group of 17 patients who participated in a clinical trial. the results obtained are shown in activities they performed months after the experimental treatment: They breathe better, walk better and have a better quality of life afterwards.
COPD kills approximately three million people worldwide each year, 18,000 in Spain. This is a severe respiratory disease that involves progressive damage to lung tissue. The affected tissue cannot be cured by current treatments, only relieved by drugs that widen the airways to improve air flow, known as bronchodilators.
80% of patients with COPD are smokers and one in four smokers have the disease. More than two million Spaniards have COPD, but 1.5 have no diagnosis, according to the Spanish Society of Pulmonology and Thoracic Surgery (Separ). Treatment so far involves a battery of pharmacological options to relieve symptoms, such as bronchodilators or antibiotics in case of infection and in the most severe cases a lung transplant is required.
So it was discovered new tools against COPD important. Chinese scientists are working for this purpose with stem cells, which can differentiate into any cell in the body, and progenitor cells, which are descendants of stem cells and can only differentiate into cells belonging to same tissue or organ and They. commonly used by the body to repair and replace damaged tissue. However, so far, the results are conflicting, especially in the case of stem cells.
Zuo, also a principal scientist at Regend Therapeutics, focused on a type of cell called P63+ lung progenitor cells can regenerate lung tissue damaged by COPD. “Regenerative medicine based on stem cells and progenitor cells may be the greatest, if not the only, hope for curing COPD,” he said in the congress.
“P63+ progenitor cells are known for their ability to regenerate airway tissues,” Zuo explained. “We’ve been showing up previous animal experiments that can be cured damaged epithelial tissue in the alveoli. “These small air sacs in the lungs play an important role in the gas exchange between the inhaled air and the blood supply to the lungs.”
From Imperial College London (United Kingdom), Professor Omar Usmani, commented that “the results of this phase I clinical trial are encouraging. COPD is in desperate need of new and more effective treatments, so this will be very exciting if these results are confirmed in subsequent clinical trials. It was very encouraging that two patients with emphysema responded as well”.
In this regard, Javier de Miguel Díez head of the Pulmonology Service section of the Gregorio Marañón General University Hospital, points out that it away from your landing on consultations. “This is a clinical trial at a very early stage with very few patients.”
This is not the first trial of cell therapy in COPD. In the US, the Clinical Trials website currently has about 25 registered. In most cases, the first steps are taken with small groups of patients, so experts still describe this option as futuristic until the results are obtained in larger groups of patients. sick.
What does the cell therapy experiment consist of?
In this first phase of the clinical trial, researchers began to investigate the efficacy and safety of the extract. P63+ progenitor cells from the lungs of 20 COPD patients, using it to grow millions more in the laboratory, before transplanting them back into the patients’ lungs. “In our essay, 35% of patients had severe COPD and 53% had severe COPD Zou said.
“We use a small catheter with a brush tip to collect progenitor cells from the patients’ own airways. We clone the cells to generate up to a billion more and then -transplant it back into the patients’ lungs using bronchoscopy to repair the damaged lung tissue,” the Chinese official explained in a press conference.
Of those 20 patients, 17 were treated like this and three were not, making up the control group. Everything is evaluated within the 24 weeks after treatment to determine how well they tolerate the treatment and its effectiveness. Cellular treatment was well tolerated by all patients.
After the first 12 weeks, the median pulmonary diffusion capacity, which measures the air exchange between the lungs and the bloodstream, increased from 30% before treatment to 39.7% and then increased to 40.3% at 24 weeks.
In addition, the distance covered in a six-minute walk test increased from 410 meters before treatment to 447 meters at 24 weeks. In two patients with mild emphysema, a type of lung damage that is usually permanent and progressive, the treatment improved the lung damage.
Although Usmani, also head of the European Respiratory Society group on respiratory tract diseases, asthma, COPD and chronic cough, clarified that “a The limitation of this study is that the absorption of progenitor cells when they were transferred back to the patients it was not controlled. Therefore, we do not know if the lungs of some patients respond better to the transplant than others. “We hope that this information can be found in future studies.”
Professor Zuo concluded that “P63+ progenitor cell transplantation not only improved lung function in COPD patients, but also alleviated their symptoms, such as shortness of breath, loss of exercise ability, and persistent cough. , generally, longer life expectancy.”
Next steps to make a standard treatment
The route is already drawn on the road map. design of a phase II treatment trial, which will evaluate its effectiveness in a larger group of patients. The test has been approved by China’s National Medical Products Administration (NMPA), the Chinese equivalent of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and its European counterpart, EMA.
The treatment is not yet available, because there are different steps to be taken. “With more doctors and patients participating in our clinical trial, we can develop the treatment faster,” said Professor Zuo. “Again A similar treatment strategy was tested in patients with fatal fibrotic lung diseases., including idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. We will test the effectiveness of the treatment in larger groups of people with multiple lung diseases. “We hope to develop the treatment for clinical use within two to three years.”