Adult Stem Cells for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (COPD) is a debilitating lung condition that leaves patients unable to breathe or enjoy life. It is also known as emphysema, chronic bronchitis and chronic obstructive asthma. COPD is rated as the third leading killer in the United States, killing approximately 120,000 individuals a year. Persons suffering from COPD also experience chronic disability and often a low quality of life. Sufferers also require a large amount of medical care with its expense and the need to stay near medical facilities and personnel. COPD is a very limiting and deadly disease.
This paper is designed to help readers gain a greater understanding of the use of adult stem cells for COPD and offer a framework for evaluating if stem cell treatment is a potential step for you or your loved one. We will cover the following:
- What are the current medical treatment options for COPD?
- Who should consider adult stem cell therapy for COPD?
- How are adult stem cells deployed for COPD?
- What results can I expect from adult stem cells for COPD?
- What to expect after your deployment?
Feel free to skip to sections that provide information that is helpful to you. For more information including definitions and descriptions of COPD visit:
Frequently Asked Questions
A: COPD is a chronic condition and therefore typically requires long term medications. The commonly used treatment options are:
- Inhaled medications:
- Short acting bronco dilating inhalers which include:
- Long acting bronco dilating inhalers which include:
- Inhaled steroids (glucocorticoids) like fluticasone. Most experts recommend that inhaled steroids only be used with bronco dilators.
- Combinations of the above inhalers
- Oral medications such as theophylline and roflumilast
- Glucocorticoids (steroids) orally, intramuscularly and/or intravenously.
- Pulmonary rehabilitation – exercise, physical therapy and occupational therapy
- Smoking cessation
- Oxygen therapy
- Non-invasive positive pressure ventilation
- Hospitalization is frequently required for exacerbations (worsenings)
- Lung reduction or transplant surgery
With the exception of surgery, these treatment options are all considered supportive. They help the symptoms but do not change the underlying disease. A simplified diagram of these treatments is:
A COPD patient may be prescribed one, several or all of these at one time or another during the course of their illness. Some patients suffer without using any treatments. The effectiveness of treatment varies greatly both between patients and over the course of the illness. Many patients with COPD do very well for many years with exercise with or without medications.
For more information on the treatment of COPD see:
If you are a person doing well using these options, this might not be the right time to consider adult stem cell treatment.
A: If you are doing well with your current medical therapy, you may not be an ideal candidate for adult stem cell therapy. Persons should consider adult stem cell therapy for COPD include:
- Persons who have not responded very well to their medical treatment
- Persons who responded earlier to treatment but are no longer responding
- Persons who cannot tolerate the recommended treatment
- Persons wishing to avoid the recommended treatment such as surgery
- Persons for whom nothing has been effective.
Lung changes in COPD
Adult stem cell therapy DOES NOT assure a response in these patients. However, it does offer an alternative that they may wish to consider. We will discuss results below.
A: We refer to the process of actually using the adult stem cells. The typical deployment for COPD is intravenous. We also nebulize a small amount of the same cells and have the patient inhale it.
The IV is started in the office and the stem cells are injected into a small IV bag. This is then given to the patient over 20-30 minutes. The nebulizer is given during the time the IV is running. When the nebulizer and IV are finished, the IV is discontinued and the patient is discharged.
A: Although research is in progress, there are currently no treatment groups large enough to answer this question conclusively. It is important to be aware that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has NOT approved the use of adult stem cells for any disorder including COPD. Patients can see some improvement in a few days, but for others nothing is seen for a few months. Those who have a cough as a prominent symptom often see improvement in their cough early on. For others, the improvement is more gradual. Early review of data as shown a slow change in the course of COPD. The primary measurement used for the severity is how much air the patient can exhale in 1 second. This measurement is called FEV1. The average COPD patient loses 1% of his/her FEV1 per month from the time of diagnosis until death. After stem cells, patients on average gain about ½% per month. This is a slow improvement, but over time becomes significant. The number of patients remain small but the trend is encouraging.
A: Most of the time repeat deployment is done after the patient has seen some improvement and more improvement is sought. Occasionally, repeat deployment is done because the patient has lost some improvement previously seen. The question of how many deployments are best and how often they are needed is an area of intense interest and study at this time. It is too early to say conclusively that adult stem cells treatment promotes the growth of new lung cells.