Jan. 1, 2008 Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is a disease with unknown cause with a very severe prognosis; when detected, it is already in an advanced stage. Patients suffering from it cannot develop with normality pulmonary gas exchange, and have a very reduced quality of life. Because of lack of an effective treatment, they rarely survive 5 years after being diagnosed. Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis affects 13 out of 100,000 men and 7 out of 100,000 women, normally over 40 years of age.
Researchers from the Biomedical Research Institute of Barcelona CSIC (IIBB-CSIC), a centre developing research in the framework of the Institut d'Investigacions Biomèdiques August Pi i Sunyer (IDIBAPS), have discovered and patented a method to stop and revert this disease in an animal model.
Gas exchange is developed in lungs thanks to type 1 pneumocytes in alveoli, cells recovering the inner walls of the alveolar cavity. Occupying the same spaces, there are also type II pneumocytes, precursor cells that repair the damaged alveolar tissue. When idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis appears, this regeneration process cannot be developed correctly and fibrosis advances until respiration is impossible.
The technique developed by researchers from the IIBB-CSIC-IDIBAPS consists in a transplantation of type II pneumocytes via intratracheal. In order to monitor correctly the transplanted cells with genetic and fluorescence techniques, sexual chromosomal differences were used. Thus, the disease was induced in female rats, and cells from male rats were transplanted. This is a minimally invasive technique which has permitted to regenerate, for the first time, rat fibrotic alveoli where idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis was induced.
CSIC has patented as a treatment the cell suspension transplanted with this innovative strategy. The world patent will be tested in humans with a clinical study, soon to be conducted in the Hospital Clínic de Barcelona. This study will have the participation of 6 recently diagnosed patients who will receive a suspension of type II pneumocytes coming from a dead donor, since these cells cannot be cultured in the laboratory. Next, researchers will try to obtain type II pneumocytes from adult stem cells.
Results of their research work are published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine (176(12):1261-8). This study has had the collaboration of basic researchers, such as Dr. Anna Serrano-Mollar, and Dr. Oriol Bulbena, first and last signatories of the study; and researchers with a clinical background, such as Dr. Antoni Xaubet, from the Unit of Pneumology of the Hospital Clínic de Barcelona. This turns this work into a paradigm of translational research promoted in IDIBAPS and through other initiatives such as the Network of Centres of Biomedical Research (CIBERs). This research work has been financed through a contribution from the Fondo de Investigaciones Sanitarias (FIS) from the Instituto de Salud Carlos III.
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