Scientists have discovered that idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis; a chronic progressive lung disease can be very effectively stopped and reverted by an experimental treatment.
Researchers from the Biomedical Research Institute of Barcelona CSIC (IIBB-CSIC), a centre developing research in the framework of the Institut d'Investigacions Biomediques August Pi i Sunyer (IDIBAPS), have also patented the method developed through experimentation with rats.
They say that a clinical study will be soon conducted in humans in the Hospital Clínic de Barcelona.
Patients suffering from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis cannot develop with normality pulmonary gas exchange, and have a very reduced quality of life, according to background information in a report published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
Due to lack of an effective treatment, such patients rarely survive five years after being diagnosed.
Gas exchange is developed in lungs due to type 1 pneumocytes in alveoli, cells recovering the inner walls of the alveolar cavity. The same spaces are also occupied by type II pneumocytes, precursor cells that repair the damaged alveolar tissue.
In patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, this regeneration process does not develop correctly, and fibrosis advances until respiration is impossible.
Researchers from the IIBB-CSIC-IDIBAPS said that the new technique developed by them consisted in a transplantation of type II pneumocytes via intratracheal.
They revealed that in order to monitor the transplanted cells with genetic and fluorescence techniques, they used sexual chromosomal differences. The disease was induced in female rats, and cells from male rats were transplanted.
The researchers said that their technique was a lowly invasive method that facilitated, for the first time, the regeneration of rat fibrotic alveoli where idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis was induced.
The innovative strategy will be tested in humans with a clinical study involving six recently diagnosed patients. The subjects will receive a suspension of type II pneumocytes coming from a dead donor because such cells cannot be cultured in the laboratory.
One of the following steps of researchers will be to try to obtain type II pneumocytes from adult stem cells.