Several recent reports, using animal models, provide evidence for treating lung disorders with adult stem cells.

Premature babies are often placed on ventilators to deliver oxygen and expand underdeveloped lungs, but the high oxygen and mechanical ventilation can lead to lung inflammation, inhibit proper lung growth, and lead to long-term complications. Work out of Children's Hospital in Boston found that bone marrow stromal cells, a type of adult stem cell, can reduce inflammation in lung tissue. Using newborn mice as a model, the researchers injected adult bone marrow stem cells intravenously. The cells migrated to the lungs and prevented inflammation. The cells seem to work by secreting protective and stimulatory factors that help the lung cells and blood vessels; the same effects could be obtained by injecting the growth medium in which the adult stem cells had been grown. The results are published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Similar results have been published by an international team, led by Canadian scientist Dr. Bernard Thebaud at the Stollery Children's Hospital, Edmonton, Alberta. Using a rat model, the scientists found that adult stem cells from bone marrow could repair lung damage in newborn rats as well as prevent further damage. According to Dr. Thebaud:

"The really exciting thing that we discovered was that stem cells are like little factories, pumping out healing factors."

These results are also published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

More breathable news comes from a team in South Korea led by Dr. Won Soon Park from the Samsung Medical Center. Using newborn laboratory rats with oxygen-deprived lung injury, the researchers found that mesenchymal stem cells, a type of adult stem cell from umbilical cord blood, had a protective effect against low-oxygen-induced lung injury. They noted that their findings could have important therapeutic potential for the currently untreatable hyperoxic neonatal lung disease, or bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), in premature human infants. The easy availability of umbilical cord blood is also an associated benefit. The results are published in the journal Cell Transplantation.

And in a final breath of adult stem cell fresh air, a team at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine identified adult stem cells in the bone marrow of mice that could prevent and treat acute lung injury. The researchers discovered a way to grow and stimulate the adult stem cells, and when injected into mice with acute lung injury, the cells repaired the lung injury, prevented fluid build-up and improved survival of the mice. Results were published in the journal Stem Cells.

So take a deep breath in appreciation of adult stem cells.