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Stem Cells Might One Day Treat Severe Asthma
Date:3/15/2010

Mouse study suggests treatment aimed at immune system could work in humans

MONDAY, March 15 (HealthDay News) -- Stem cells may one day be a viable treatment for people suffering from severe asthma, researchers say.

A new study published online in the March 15-19 early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences borrowed its idea from the field of organ transplantation, where multipotent stem cells in the form of bone marrow transplants are already used to reduce the risk of rejection in patients who have received donated organs.

Senior study author Dr. Eva Mezey, head of the adult stem cell unit at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), cautioned that this was an early-stage experiment conducted only in mice, and humans shouldn't get too excited just yet.

"On the one hand, people should be cautious that it might not be just as good in people. However, there are many human studies that have proven that these cells are able to modulate the immune system and tip the balance back to normal when the balance is gone," she said. "It's very likely that the intervention would work in humans."

But clinical trials will depend on working out numerous details, including how the therapy would be delivered. In the mice, the stem cells were injected but aerosol administration might work better in humans, producing a more local result instead of systemic effects and, probably, fewer side effects, she noted.

And this stem cell therapy, if it ever reaches patients, is likely to be reserved for those who haven't responded to other therapies. "Basically, you would think of this therapy in cases where patients are resistant to existing treatment," Mezey explained.

Some 16 million people in the United States have asthma, and the incidence seems to be on the rise.

Because bone marrow transplants quell immune responses in transplant patients, th
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