Researchers from the Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL) and Vall d’Hebron Research Institute (VHIR) have shown that administration of genetically modified mesenchymal stem cells regenerates lung tissue and stops the inflammatory process in mice with acute lung injury.
Study results were published in the American Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology.
Acute lung injury
Acute lung injury and its more severe manifestation, the acute respiratory distress syndrome, are characterized by very severe inflammatory processes that damage the lungs with a mortality of between 40% and 50%. Currently there is no effective treatment beyond palliative care and mechanical assistance to breath.
“In the last years we have been working in the administration of human mesenchymal stem cells from adipose tissue obtained from liposuction in different pathologies,” said the researcher of Human Molecular Genetics reserach group at IDIBELL Josep Maria Aran. “We have found that these stem cells are able to easily reach the lungs and there, secrete anti-inflammatory substances and growth factors.”
The studies conducted so far with these cells have shown a positive effect. IDIBELL and VHIR researchers have introduced a genetic modification in these cells that improves treatment.
The cytokine IL33 is a protein that acts as an alarm signal in these patients. When the damage into the lungs begins, the cells secrete this highly proinflammatory substance and elicit a very strong immune system answer.
“We believed,” says Aran, “that if we modified genetically mesenchymal stem cells to secrete a molecule antagonist of IL-33, we could stop the inflammatory process and we found that, in mice, the effect was more positive than unmodified cells: regeneration of lung tissue and practically nullifies the inflammatory process in the lungs. ”
IDIBELL has signed a licensing agreement with the Basque company Histocell for this genetic modification and currently they are working to make this “smart drug” may reach the clinical stage and try to patients.
Martínez-González I, Roca O, Masclans JR, Moreno R, Salcedo MT, Baekelandt V, Cruz MJ, Rello J, and Aran JM. Human Mesenchymal Stem Cells Overexpressing the IL-33 Antagonist sST2 Attenuate Endotoxin-Induced Acute Lung Injury. Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 2013 May 8 [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 23656573.