Two separate studies have revealed that human-derived umbilical cord blood (UCB) stem cells transplanted in an animal model could help in developing therapies for specific lung and heart disorders.
For the studies, the researchers investigated the therapeutic benefits of transplanting human umbilical cord blood (UCB) mensenchymal stem cells (MSCs) into newborn laboratory rats with oxygen-deprived lung injury.
"Human UCB-derived MSCs (mesenchymal stem cells) have been successfully isolated, cultivated and been shown to differentiate into various cell types, such as osteoblasts, chondrocytes, adipocytes, stromal cells, skeletal cells, endothelial cells and neural cells and even lung-specific cells in vitro. It is not known, however, if human UCB-derived MSCs can differentiate into lung-specific cell types in vivo," said co-author of the first study, Dr. Won Soon Park from the Samsung Medical Center, Seoul, Korea.
The researchers found that MSCs have a protective effect against hyperoxia-induced lung injury, likely due to anti-inflammatory effects.
They noted that their findings are expected to have important therapeutic potential for the currently untreatable hyperoxic neonatal lung disease, or bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), in premature human infants.
The easy availability of UCB is an associated benefit.
Park noted that the optimal route for transplantation had not previously been determined.
"An injured lung produces soluble factors that cause MSCs to proliferate and migrate toward an injured lung. But it has been unclear if the local, intratracheal administration of MSCs is comparable to, or better than systemic transplantation," he explained.
The researchers found that the intratracheal, rather than the intraperitoneal transplantation of human UCB-derived MSCs, significantly attenuated the hyperoxia-induced lung injury, such as decreased alveolarization and fibrosis.
However, survival rate was not improved by the MSC transplants.
It is still unclear if the donor cells exert a therapeutic effect by inducing direct tissue repair and regeneration of damaged cells, said the researchers.
The study has been published in the current issue of Cell Transplantation.