WASHINGTON - A new research, conducted by Italian boffins, has shown that stem cells derived from human placenta could help in the treatment of lung diseases, such as pulmonary fibrosis and fibrotic diseases caused by tuberculosis, chemical exposure, radiation or pathogens.

These diseases can eventually lead to loss of normal lung tissue and organ failure. No known therapy effectively reverses or stops the fibrotic process.

Stem cells derived from placenta are known to be able to engraft in solid organs, including the lungs. Human term placenta stem cells also show characteristics of high plasticity and low immunogenicity.

“The potential application of foetal membrane-derived cells as a therapeutic tool for disorders characterized by inflammation and fibrosis is supported in previous studies,” says study’s lead author Dr. Ornella Parolini.

“In line with the hypothesis that cells derived from the amniotic membrane have immunomodulatory properties and have been used as an anti-inflammatory agent, we set out to evaluate the effects of fetal membrane-derived cell transplantation in chemically-treated (bleomycin) mice,” Parolini added.

According to Parolini, cells delivered via intra-peritoneal transplant, regardless of the cells being allogenic or xenogenic (host’s own cells or from another individual respectively), the procedure resulted in a significant anti-fibrotic effect on the lab animals.

Parolini says that a “consistent” reduction in lung fibrosis “provides convincing proof” that placenta-derived cells do confer benefits for bleomycin-induced lung injury.

While the severity of inflammation did not show an overall reduction, there was a marked reduction in neutrophil (white blood cell) infiltration after both xeno-and-allo-transplantation.

“It is worth noting that the presence of neutrophils is associated with poor prognosis for several lung diseases. However, the mechanism by which placenta-derived cells might affect infiltration by neutrophils is not known,” says Parolini.

The researchers speculated that these cells might produce soluble factors that induce anti-inflammatory effects.

“Our findings suggest that fetal membrane-derived cells may prove useful for cell therapy of fibrotic diseases in the future,” says Parolini.

The study has been published in the current issue of Cell Transplantation. (ANI)