Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (or IPF) is a debilitating disease that affects more than 2000 Australians.
It attacks the tissue in your lungs, causing them to become stiff and making everyday tasks like walking up stairs near impossible. A life with IPF is short – with most patients passing away 3 to 5 years after diagnosis – and painful. Patients are left breathless, tired and often with a constant dry cough.
And the doctors treating patients with IPF have little to no options. For Dr Dan Chambers, it’s a frustrating process to stand on the sideline and watch his patients suffer a painful death.
Luckily Dr Chambers and his team in the thoracic lab at The Prince Charles Hospital think they’ve found the first key to treating IPF. One of the characteristics of the disease is the depletion of a certain type of stem cell in the lungs – mesenchymal stem cells (or MSCs). So, what if we could simply replace the lost MSCs with new ones?
The study is already showing positive results, and if successful will not only help patients with IPF but could be the solution for other lung diseases and even lung transplant treatments. Which begs the question; could stem cell therapy be the key to treating other lung diseases?
In another exciting development, Dr Chambers is leading a nationwide study using stem cell therapy to treat lung transplant rejection. This study – called the ASSIST CLAD study is funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council and includes the entire Australian lung transplant community.
The ASSIST CLAD study is the largest lung stem cell therapy study in the world, and could completely revolutionise treatments for all sorts of diseases. It even has the potential to translate to other organ failure such as liver or kidney.
The early phase results of the study are going to be presented at the International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation meeting in Washington DC later this month. Following on from this, together with the Prince Charles Hospital Foundation and the University of Queensland, Dr Chambers’ hope is to establish a dedicated lung stem cell therapy centre at The Prince Charles Hospital.
Thanks to Dr Chambers and the team, thousands of patients suffering from debilitating lung diseases may have a new hope for their future.
You can read more about the fantastic work being done by Dr Chambers and his team into lung disease here.