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Regenerative medicine in the treatment of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis: current position

Authors Alvarez D, Levine M, Rojas M

Received 28 June 2014

Accepted for publication 11 December 2014

Published 15 April 2015 Volume 2015:8 Pages 61—65

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/SCCAA.S49801

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr Bernard Binetruy


Diana Álvarez,1,2 Melanie Levine,1 Mauricio Rojas1–3

1Dorothy P and Richard P Simmons Center for Interstitial Lung Disease, 2Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care Medicine, 3McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, PA, USA

Abstract: Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a progressive, irreversible disease of the lung that has no lasting option for therapy other than transplantation. It is characterized by replacement of the normal lung tissue by fibrotic scarring, honeycombing, and increased levels of myofibroblasts. The underlying causes of IPF are still largely unknown. The focus of the current review is the possible use of stem cell therapy, specifically mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), a multipotent stromal cell population, which have demonstrated promising data in multiple animal models of pulmonary fibrosis (PF). The most studied source of MSCs is the bone marrow, although they can be found also in the adipose tissue and umbilical cord, as well as in the placenta. MSCs have immunomodulatory and tissue-protective properties that allow them to manipulate the local environment of the injured tissue, ameliorating the inflammation and promoting repair. Because IPF primarily affects older patients, the issue of aging is intrinsically linked to many aspects of the disease, including the age of the stem cells. Animal models have shown the success of MSC therapy in mitigating the fibrotic effects of bleomycin-induced PF. However, bleomycin, the most commonly used model for PF, is imperfect in mimicking IPF as it presents in humans, as the duration of the illness is not parallel or reversible, and honeycombing is not produced. Furthermore, the time of MSC dosage has proven to be critical in determining whether the cells will ultimately have a positive or negative effect on disease progression, since it has been demonstrated that the maximal beneficial effect of MSCs occurs during the early inflammatory phase of the disease and that there is no or negative effect during the late fibrotic phase. Therefore, all the current clinical trials of MSCs and IPF, though promising, should proceed with caution as we move toward true stem cell therapy for this disease.

Keywords: aging, cell therapy, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, lung disease, lung fibrosis, mesenchymal stem cells

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