Stem Cell Therapy and COPD: What You Need to Know



You’ve probably heard about how stem cell therapy has been providing cures for various ailments. Some are even touting it a ‘miracle cure’ for almost every disease – and even aging!


Perhaps you are asking, “Could stem cells be the cure to my COPD?”


What is stem cell therapy? How does it work?


Considered the building blocks of life, stem cells are vital to every organism. Unlike ‘mature’ cells which are specialized to perform specific functions, stem cells are capable of regenerating, replicating and forming into any type of tissue in the body. Due to this inherent characteristic of stem cells, they can be used to replace damaged, diseased, or lost tissues and even organs!


In stem cell therapy, stem cells are collected from the patient’s own bone marrow or blood. The cells are then processed and injected back to the patient’s system. These stem cells regenerate diseased tissues and cells, thereby promoting healing.


Theoretically, stem cell therapy can provide cure to any type of disease. This is because stem cells can specialize into whatever cells the body needs. However, the science behind stem cells is not yet fully explored and thus needs more careful study to reap its full potential.


At present, clinical trials have shown how this new medical procedure can treat several diseases that include diabetes and other neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and spinal cord injuries.


How stem cells can help COPD patients


COPD is among the chronic conditions that remain without a cure. COPD treatments are aimed at managing its symptoms – not really treating the cause. But stem cell therapy offers a glimmer of hope to COPD sufferers as these cells can potentially regenerate the diseased lung tissues, promote healing, and restore lung function.


Recent clinical trials are very reassuring, showing that stem cells help improve the quality of life of COPD sufferers and those with other pulmonary conditions such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema, interstitial lung disease and pulmonary fibrosis.


Stem cell therapy for COPD follows the same procedure: stem cells are harvested from the patient, processed and reintroduced to the body intravenously. Once stem cells are introduced into the blood circulation, the blood takes them to the heart then to the lungs before they are distributed throughout the body.  The stem cells stay in the lungs for a certain period (known as pulmonary trap) before being circulated into the system. It is thought that this circulatory process will benefit COPD sufferers, because the stem cells get deposited into the lungs where they can mature into lung tissues and thereby promoting healing.


Is stem cell therapy effective for COPD?


Although there are researches and clinical trials on the use of stem cells for lung disease, to date, such research is still in its early phases. This means, it is still premature to ascertain the feasibility and safety of stem cell treatment for chronic lung disease.


But don’t lose hope. There are clinical trials that are already in their later phase. Moreover, the growing interest in the potential of stem cells continues to attract more researches and clinical trials. And as we gain more knowledge about stem cells and how they can change the course of a disease process, we can hope that experts will be able to design treatments to correct these dysfunctions.


You will probably see advertisements, websites and forums that offer stem cell therapy with very promising “cure-all” claims. You might also hear testimonials from patients who have already undergone stem cell treatment. Sure, they sound very promising and reassuring, and you can be easily lured into taking stem cells too, but note that the US Food and Drug Administration has not yet fully approved such treatments. There is still much to understand regarding the safety and efficacy of stem cells in humans.


Due to the potential harm, lack of substantiated benefits, and high costs these providers charge, the US FDA has released stringent guidelines on the administration of stem cells. At present, there are a very small number of FDA-approved clinical trials in the United States and Canada that you can participate in. You can find the list at the National Institute of Health’s website.


Have you tried stem cell treatment for your COPD? Or are you thinking of trying it out? Share your thoughts in the comments below!