BETHESDA, Md., Aug. 11, 2010 - Researchers are reporting this week new study results they say provide further evidence of the therapeutic potential of stem cells derived from bone marrow for patients suffering from acute lung injury, one of the most common causes of respiratory failure in intensive care units.
Led by Drs. Michael A. Matthay and Jae W. Lee at the Cardiovascular Research Institute of the University of California, San Francisco, the team writes in a Journal of Biological Chemistry "Paper of the Week" that its experiments have revealed how a type of bone marrow stem cell bolsters damaged lung cells.
"We found that these stem cells secreted a significant quantity of a protein that restored the barrier that keeps fluid and other elements out of the lungs," said Lee, an associate professor of anesthesia at UCSF. "We're optimistic about the promise that future clinical trials may hold."
Scientists for decades have harnessed the natural regenerative properties of bone marrow to treat patients with blood-related diseases. And, of late, investigations into the potential of using bone marrow stem cells to treat damaged tissues have intensified.
There are two types of stem cells in bone marrow. One kind, hematopoietic stem cells, is tasked with producing red and white blood cells, depending upon the immune system's needs. The other, mesenchymal stem cells, is the focus of Matthay and Lee's work. While mesenchymal stem cells also support the production of blood cells, scientists today are quite interested in their ability to differentiate into cells that, when mature, develop into tissues throughout the body.
"Within the past several years, there has been an increased interest in understanding the biology of stem cells for clinical use as cell-based therapies," Lee said.
Acute lung injury is brought on by a number of conditions, such as pneumonia and sepsis, also known as blood poisoning. In s
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