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10 Jan 2015
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Mesenchymal Stem Cell Therapy Repairs Airway Fistula

Using the mesenchymal stem cells derived from the patient’s bone marrow, researchers have successfully repaired an airway fistula in the lower respiratory system, a potentially fatal condition.

Airway Fistula: How is it formed?

A fistula is an abnormal connection that forms between organs, blood vessels or tissues inside the body. A 42 year old firefighter had undergone Extrapleural Pneumonectomy, a surgical removal of right lung as a treatment for mesothelioma cancer and developed a Bronchopleural fistula. A bronchopleural fistula is an abnormal connection between the airway and the pleural space which may develop after surgical removal of lungs. This fistula development may cause chronic illness or even death depending on the patient’s treatment and health condition.

How does Stem Cell Therapy Repairs Airway Fistula?

Based on their previous preclinical study3, Dr. Francesco Patrella of European Institute of Oncology in Milan, Italy and team found that bone marrow derived mesenchymal stem cell (BMMSC) transplantation can close a fistula in the lower airway by extraluminal proliferation of fibroblasts and formation of collageneous matrix in animal models. With this promising result on one hand and functional human stem cell transplantation results on the other, Patrella and team transplanted the autologous (self) BMMSC to the patient suffering from bronchpleural fistula condition.

Initially, the patient underwent a bone marrow aspiration (removal of a small amount of bone marrow fluid) which is followed by mesenchymal stem cell isolation, expansion and injection of the same into his pars membranacea of the right main bronchial stump, close to the fistula opening.

Treatment Outcome

Stem cell transplantation, after 2 months showed improvement and the hole seen before transplant was replaced with a new tissue which is formed by the mesenchymal stem cells. Even 4.5 months after the therapy, there is no recurrence observed and the patient is in good clinical condition.

Patrella believes that this stem cell technique can also be used to treat other fistulas like stomach, colon, intestine or vaginal fistulas. "However, so far, all cases that have been treated with stem cells have been successful," he added.

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