A new tool that could prevent a debilitating, fatal condition that causes scar tissue to build up in the lungs and chokes off the ability to breathe in patients undergoing lung transplant has been developed by scientists at University of Michigan.
The new diagnostic tool to predict bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome (BOS) will allow doctors to intervene earlier and, ultimately, to provide life-saving treatments.
The new findings have implications for people suffering from other types of lung disease, such as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, known as IPF.
Vibha Lama and her colleagues discovered that patients who had a high number of stem cells in their lungs six months after transplantation were much more likely to develop BOS than those with lower counts.
The spike in cell count occur shortly after transplantation as the body responds to the injury; those levels usually taper off, but a second rise of cell counts after about six months is linked to a patient's likelihood of developing BOS.
Mesenchymal stromal cells were measured in 405 bronchoalveolar lavage fluid samples obtained from 162 lung transplant recipients and patients were observed for BOS development.
"By the time we usually diagnose BOS, there's already been a huge decline in lung function. If we can find the disease early, we can potentially do something about it," Lama said.
The study appears in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.