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Emphysema Patients Find Hope In Stem Cell Therapy

Emphysema Patients Find Hope In Stem Cell Therapy

Emphysema affects millions of Americans every year, most often due to chronic smoking. Around 85% of emphysema cases are caused by cigarette smoke. The condition damages the lungs, making it hard to breathe and causing a chronic cough. A lung transplant may become necessary if the condition continues to worsen. Stem cell therapy is being explored as a treatment for lung conditions. It may be able to help patients suffering from emphysema and COPD.


What Is Emphysema?


Emphysema is a type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It involves the loss of elasticity and enlargement of the air sacs in the lung. The alveoli at the end of the bronchioles of the lung become enlarged because their walls break down or the air sacs are destroyed, narrowed, collapsed, stretched, or over-inflated. Having fewer and larger damaged sacs means there is a reduced surface area for the exchange of oxygen into the blood and carbon dioxide out of it. The damage is permanent. The ability to breathe properly cannot be fully recovered. Two of the key symptoms of emphysema are shortness of breath and a chronic cough. These appear in the early stages. A person with shortness of breath, or dyspnea, feels being unable to catch a breath. This may start only during physical exertion, but as the disease progresses, it can begin to happen during rest, too.


Treatment of COPD and emphysema aims to stabilize the condition and prevent complications through the use of medication and supportive therapy. Supportive therapy includes oxygen therapy and helps with smoking cessation. As emphysema progresses and respiratory function declines, independent breathing becomes more difficult. Oxygen therapy improves oxygen delivery to the lungs.

Oxygen can be supplemented by using a range of devices, some of them for home use. Options include electrically driven oxygen concentrators, liquid oxygen systems, or cylinders of compressed gas, depending on needs and how much time the person spends outdoors or at home. Lung function tests are used to confirm a diagnosis of emphysema, to monitor disease progression, and to assess response to treatment.

They measure the capacity of the lungs to exchange respiratory gases and include spirometry. Spirometry assesses airflow obstruction. It takes measurements according to the reduction in forced expiratory volume after bronchodilator treatment. In this test, patients blow as fast and hard as possible into a tube. The tube is attached to a machine that measures the volume and speed of air blown out.


How Can Stem Cell Therapy Help Patients With Emphysema?


Stem cell therapy is being studied as a treatment method for patients suffering from emphysema and COPD. Researchers believe that stem cells can repair the damaged lung tissue and structure, allowing a patient to breath more efficiently. Stem cells are also able to reduce inflammation in the lungs due to the damage from emphysema. There have been several successful studies conducted on animals, but clinical trials in humans are still far off.

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