Stem cells offer potential treatment for bronchopleural fistulas

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic use a patient’s own stem cells to treat her bronchopleural fistula

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For the first time in human application, researchers at Mayo Clinic (MN, USA) successfully closed an open wound on the upper chest caused by postoperative complications of lung removal with stem cells. The findings were recently published in Stem Cells Translational Medicine.

Bronchopleural fistulas are wounds formed from holes that lead from the large airways in the lungs to the membrane that lines the lungs. Currently, the existing standard surgical approaches for these fistulas induce poor health and can even lead to death.

“Current management is not reliably successful,” explains Dennis Wigle, Mayo Clinic thoracic surgeon and lead author of the paper. “After exhausting therapeutic options, and with declining health of the patient, we moved toward a new approach. The protocol and approach were based on an ongoing trial investigating this method to treat anal fistulas in Crohn’s disease.”

The article describes the case of a 63-year-old female patient, who was referred to Mayo Clinic for treatment of a large bronchopleural fistula. With current therapies offering little relief, researchers turned to regenerative medicine for an innovative treatment.

The stem cells were harvested from the patient’s abdominal tissue and seeded onto a bioabsorbable mesh. The mesh was surgically implanted at the site of the fistula. Follow up imaging indicated that the fistula was closed and remained healed. More than a year-and-a-half later, the patient remains asymptomatic and has been able to resume daily life activities.

“To our knowledge, this case represents the first in human report of surgically placed stem cells to repair a large, multiply recurrent bronchopleural fistula, "commented Dennis Wigle. "The approach was well tolerated suggesting the potential for expanded use.”

While the procedure was successful in this case, it is unclear to which degree the treatment directly contributed to the healing of the fistula and further investigation is needed.

Sources:; Aho J, Dietz A, Radel D et al. Closure of a Recurrent Bronchopleural Fistula Using a Matrix Seeded With Patient-Derived Mesenchymal Stem Cells. Stem Cells Trans Med, doi: 10.5966/sctm.2016-0078 (online before print) (2016)

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Elena Conroy

Contributor, Future Science Group

If you have any interest in submitting to the journal Regenerative Medicine or have any queries, please don't hesitate to contact my colleague Adam, Commissioning Editor of the journal

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