Study Finds Treatment for Pulmonary Fibrosis Effective in Later Stages of Disease

University of Illinois Researchers have uncovered novel information about pulmonary fibrosis. Their research demonstrates that fibrosis in the lungs can be reversed, and tissue can be repaired using microgel-coated mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs).

Pulmonary Fibrosis

Pulmonary fibrosis is a disease which can be caused by many different factors, including rheumatoid arthritis, pneumonia, specific medications, or even environmental toxins.

The condition leads to a buildup of scar tissue in the lungs, which in turn leads to breathing difficulty as well as oxygen deprivation.

Until now, this scar tissue has been thought to be irreversible, with medication leading to only mild improvements. Not only are current treatments mostly ineffective, but they lead to very strong side effects, impacting patient’s quality of life.

The Study

This study was published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering and analyzed the effect of MSCs in pulmonary fibrosis models. These cells are similar to stem cells; in fact, that they are self-renewing. Their study in this condition is not unique, and previous investigations have demonstrated that they have the capacity to suppress inflammation. Unfortunately, this efficacy only works in the early stages of the disease.

This study aimed to understand how these cells could be modified to aid in later stages of the disease, when inflammation levels are lower, but fibrosis is just as strong.

Using a mice model, the research team investigated how using a coating of a thin microgel could help these cells to diminish scar tissue and help healthy tissues grow. TNF-a was also incorporated into the cells. TNF-a helps to encourage the cells to synthesize collagenase which helps to degrade collagen in tissue affected by fibrosis and restore the damaged tissue. Each cell was encapsulated within a microfluidic device.

The mice in the study were found to have-

  • Normal collagen levels
  • Normal fiber density
  • Lung tissue which had micro elasticity
  • Reversed aberrant tissue remodeling after inflammation had stopped
  • Reduction of scaring
  • Increased levels of healthy tissue

These findings could be life-changing for patients with pulmonary fibrosis, as it is the first study to demonstrate fibrosis healing in later disease stages.

You can read more about this study and its findings here.

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