COPD and Stem Cell Therapy
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COPD and Stem Cell Therapy

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, commonly referred to as COPD, is a progressive, irreversible disease of the lower respiratory tract of the lungs characterized by difficulty breathing that steadily worsens with time. Until recently, most treatments for COPD have concentrated on margining the progression of the symptoms and providing temporary relief using bronchodilators and steroids. For the first time, autologous (donor and recipient are same person) stem cell treatments are available in the US.

Overview:

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, commonly referred to as COPD, is a progressive, irreversible disease of the lower respiratory tract of the lungs characterized by difficulty breathing that steadily worsens with time.

A seriously disabling disease with the potential for major complications--and often fatal--COPD is a leading cause of disability and the fourth leading cause of death in the US according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Usually the result of a combination of two conditions, emphysema and chronic obstructive bronchitis, most people who sufferer COPD have both conditions. Although COPD is usually diagnosed in middle-age or elderly people, it can also occur under various conditions to much younger individuals.

COPD most often develops as a result of smoking, but can also occur from long-term inhalation of various air pollutants, chemical fumes, or dust. The longer the lungs are exposed to smoke or irritants, the higher the risk for developing COPD.

Studies have also shown a close relationship between COPD and second-hand smoke.

Smoker's lung

The science:

In healthy lungs, air and oxygen pass through the upper respiratory tract into the bronchioles and the alveoli in the lungs. The alveoli are tiny, hollow sack-like structures at the end of the bronchioles where oxygen is absorbed into the bloodstream. However, long-term inhalation of smoke or other irritants results in a loss of elasticity in the bronchioles and alveoli, destruction of the walls between alveoli, accompanied by swelling and inflammation. Additionally, there is typically an abnormally large amount of mucus production which can block airways.

The symptoms of COPD include shortness of breath, a loose cough that produces large amount of phlegm, and frequent chest tightness. Complications of COPD can be serious, even life threatening, and result in additional symptoms. To date, there is no cure for COPD because the damage done to the airways in the lungs by smoke or other irritants is permanent. However, with regular medical care and consistent patient compliance with treatments and lifestyle changes, the symptoms of COPD can be minimized and progression of the disease can be slowed.

Until recently, most treatments for COPD have concentrated on marginalizing the progression of the symptoms and providing temporary relief using bronchodilators and steroids. However, new alternatives are now available that may not only impact the course of the disease for countless sufferers, but their quality of life. For the first time, autologous (donor and recipient are same person) stem cell treatments are available in the US.

Stem cell therapy:

Every human has adult stem cells in their blood, adipose tissue (composed of fat cells), and bone marrow which act as a repair system for the body. They replace dying cells, have the ability to regenerate new tissue, and if science is correct, has the potential to regenerate an entirely new organ from just a few cells. And since these adult stem cells are harvested from the individual who will use them, there is virtually no chance of rejection when used for stem cell therapy.

Image credit

Utilizing innovative new therapy, scientists in the US have found a way to use the natural regenerating capabilities of stem cells combined with newly-discovered chemical agents to help repair damaged lung tissue and deliver powerful antioxidants to fight free radicals. This cutting-edge treatment is intended to aid in tissue regeneration while increasing airflow to and from the lungs.

Currently performed as a three-consecutive-day outpatient procedure, the patient is given a stem cell stimulant after which blood is drawn and the stem cells are isolated, followed by the patient’s own stem cells then being reintroduced intravenously.  This is followed by nebulizer treatments using agents to fight free radicals and stimulate new tissue growth. 

Considering the great promise this new therapy is already showing, this is just the beginnning of where this and similar therapies may lead.

References:

http://stemcells.nih.gov/info/basics/

Burton Feinerman, MD @ jouvencemedical.com

http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Bronchioles

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/copd/DS00916

Images via wikipedia.org unless credited otherwise

Thumb via: http://mwatadyson.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/copd22.jpg

Visit JAMES R. COFFEY WRITING SERVICES & RESOURCE CENTER for more information.

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Comments (13)

Fascinating! My sister has COPD, I will send her a link to this.

Glad to know this is news someone can use.

Very scholarly and well researched.

Thanks, Michael.

You scared me with this one..

Hopefully an insightful scare.

One of my sisters has COPD and I'll have to send her this information. Exellent article. Voted and Promoted!

Thanks, Sandy. Much appreciated.

Nice information. Hey your comment about my music article was wrong because albums have the best info as far as quality.

Excellent facts about this lung disorder, James. As the saying goes, "if you don't breathe air, you die" so the significance of the lung as an organ to carry out this function can't be simply taken for granted.

We live in a filthy world. Too many of us underestimate what it does to our lungs.

Fantastic article. Voted up!

Thank so much Debbie. Much appreciated!

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