Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have recently emerged as a promising potential therapy for several inflammatory diseases, including severe asthma. Asthma affects over 300 million people globally, and patients with severe asthma don’t respond well to standard treatments. MSCs are very versatile cells that can reduce inflammation, making them an attractive option. However, it’s still unclear how MSCs actually work in asthma.
First, the researchers looked at what happened when MSCs were put into the lungs of normal mice through the vein or windpipe. Surprisingly, cells given through the vein ramped up Th2 cells in the lung more than windpipe delivery. This raised safety concerns about injecting cells into the bloodstream.
Next, the team induced severe asthma symptoms in mice using mold spores. In this model, giving MSCs through the windpipe early on reduced allergy-promoting interleukin production. However, cells injected into the bloodstream had no effect. Windpipe delivery also didn’t improve lung function or immune cell infiltration.
The researchers then turned to another model mimicking severe asthma driven by both allergies and air pollution. Excitingly, giving MSCs through the windpipe on day 0 improved multiple measures – it lowered hypersensitivity, immune cell infiltration and Th2/innate lymphoid cell activity. Effects grew stronger with repeated doses on days 0 and 7. A single late dose on day 7 helped modestly.
Further tests showed MSCs directly toned down Th2 and Th17 cells grown in dishes. The cells also reduced interleukin production from immune cells in the blood of asthma patients. This suggests MSCs work in part by directly interacting with allergy-promoting cells.
These findings shed light on using cord blood MSCs as a cell therapy for severe asthma. But more research is still needed on the underlying mechanisms. The route, dose and timing of treatment will also need careful optimization before testing MSCs in patients. Still, MSCs show promise as an inflammation-calming option for severe asthma cases that don’t respond to current treatments.
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