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Respirology. 2013 Oct;18(7):1041-6. doi: 10.1111/resp.12112.

Adult stem cells for chronic lung diseases.

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Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Vascular Medicine Institute, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.


Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are chronic, progressive and lethal lung diseases. The incidence of IPF and COPD increases with age, independent of exposure to common environmental risk factors. At present, there is limited understanding of the relationship between ageing and the development of chronic lung diseases. One hypothesis is that chronic injury drives to exhaustion the local and systemic repair responses in the lung. These changes are accentuated during ageing where there is a progressive accumulation of senescent cells. Recently, stem cells have emerged as a critical reparative mechanism for lung injury. In this review, we discuss the repair response of bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (B-MSC) after lung injury and how their function is affected by ageing. Our own work has demonstrated a protective role of B-MSC in several animal models of acute and chronic lung injury. We recently demonstrated the association, using animal models, between age and an increase in the susceptibility to develop severe injury and fibrosis. At the same time, we have identified functional differences between B-MSC isolated from young and old animals. Further studies are required to understand the functional impairment of ageing B-MSC, ultimately leading to a rapid stem cell depletion or fatigue, interfering with their ability to play a protective role in lung injury. The elucidation of these events will help in the development of rational and new therapeutic strategies for COPD and IPF.


ageing; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis; lung; mesenchymal stem cell

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