Tongji University research team pioneers breakthrough lung disease treatment

For the first time, researchers have succeeded in using stem cell transplantation to regenerate damaged lung tissue

Earlier this week a group of researchers at Tongji University’s medical school achieved a significant breakthrough in the treatment of lung disease, the fourth-leading cause of death in China. In a study published in the scientific journal Protein & Cell, the team, led by Professor Zuo Wei (左为), managed for the first time to regenerate damaged human lung tissue through stem cell transplantation.

The regenerative therapy involves “brushing” lung stem cells from the patient’s airways, multiplying those samples many times over outside of the body, and then transplanting them into the patient’s damaged lungs.

Zuo’s team conducted a clinical trial at Tongji University East Hospital in Shanghai that successfully regenerated damaged structures in the respiratory systems of patients with a lung disease called bronchiectasis. After three to six months of treatment, patients reported diminished respiratory symptoms, and tissue recovery was clearly visible in CT scans.

The researchers now plan to conduct a more extensive, longitudinal study to further demonstrate the therapy’s efficacy. If successful, it promises hope to a slew of patients suffering from chronic diseases for which they stand little chance of getting a lung transplant.

“Chronic lung diseases could be conquered within 5 years,” Professor Zuo said, according to a press release published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.