Scientists at the UNC-NCSU Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering are making progress toward a possible treatment of several lung ailments based on stem cells.

Their findings have been published in two different studies.

“This is the first time anyone has generated potentially therapeutic lung stem cells from minimally invasive biopsy specimens,” said Jason Lobo, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at UNC and medical director of lung transplant and interstitial lung disease who is the co-senior author of both papers.

“We think the properties of these cells make them potentially therapeutic for a wide range of lung fibrosis diseases,” added co-senior author Ke Cheng, PhD, an associate professor in NCSU’s Department of Molecular Biomedical Sciences and the UNC/NCSU Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering.

Targets include:

  • Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF)
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Cystic fibrosis

The team is already talking with the FDA and working on an application for an initial clinical trial in patients with IPF.

The team published studies in Respiratory Research and Stem Cells Translational Medicine.

In Respiratory Research, “the scientists demonstrated that they could harvest lung stem cells from people using a relatively non-invasive, doctor’s-office technique. They were then able to multiply the harvested lung cells in the lab to yield enough cells sufficient for human therapy,” the universities say.

In Stem Cells Translational Medicine, “the team showed that in rodents they could use the same type of lung cell to successfully treat a model of IPF – a chronic, irreversible, and ultimately fatal disease characterized by a progressive decline in lung function,” the universities add.