Our corporate group has recently conducted the first worldwide prospective, randomized clinical trial (Phase IB) on the use of adipose-derived stem cells for the treatment of Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis. Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) is a devastating pulmonary disease of unknown etiology with dismal prognosis and an estimated life span ranging from 3-5 years irrespective of treatment. The pathogenic mechanisms leading to progressive lung scarring and ultimately respiratory failure, remain largely unclear. Up-to-date, all conventional treatments with corticosteroids, anti-oxidants, immunosuppressive and anti-fibrotic drugs have been unsuccessful, and the only effective approach for patients with IPF is lung transplantation.
The innovative approach of stem cells by-passes this need. Their therapeutic effect arises from a combination of immunomodulatory, anti-apoptotic, anti-inflammatory and possibly regenerative properties. Furthermore, a new therapeutic potential for stem cells has currently emerged and this involves their ability to act as drug-vectors and effectively deliver therapeutic agents within damaged tissue. The ease of isolation of these cells (liposuction), and infusion (bronchoscopically) constitute major advantages as opposed to other cell-based treatments alike (e.g. umbilical cord or bone marrow derived stem cells). The fact that they are autologous (of the same patient) overcomes major fears and concerns related to histocompatibility that are common to all transplantations. The absence of any significant complications during administration, combined with the stabilization of parameters of pulmonary function as well as indicators of quality of life is extremely encouraging and prompts for further large-scale application.
Currently, we are engaging in cutting edge R&D specializing in stem cell “secretomics”, a novel field we have launched that is aiming to unravel the therapeutic niche of stem cells and stem-cell secreted compounds; of yet unpatented immunomodulators and antifibrotic agents found in the stem cell “secretome”. Furthermore, we aim to investigate the capacity of stem cells to function as drug-transporters, so called “smart-bombs” and deliver therapeutic agents in a highly selective tissue-dependent way. The latter may revolutionize prognosis and treatment of IPF and other chronic lung disorders.