Mesenchymal Stem cell therapy for Pulmonary Fibrosis

Pulmonary fibrosis (PF) is a chronic, life-threatening disease with a gradual worsening of pulmonary function and shortness of breath, and the median survival time of patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) was estimated to be 2.5–3.5 years.

Pulmonary fibrosis is a lung disease that occurs when lung tissue becomes damaged and scarred. This thickened, stiff tissue makes it more difficult for your lungs to work properly. As pulmonary fibrosis worsens, you become progressively more short of breath. The scarring associated with pulmonary fibrosis can be caused by a multitude of factors. But in most cases, the cause is unknown. When a cause can’t be found, the condition is termed idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

The lung damage caused by pulmonary fibrosis can’t be repaired, but medications and therapies can sometimes help ease symptoms and improve quality of life. For some people, a lung transplant might be appropriate.

PF is characterized by alveolar epithelial cell injury, remodeling of lung architecture, abnormal accumulation of extracellular matrix, and fibroblasts in parenchymal tissue, which ultimately results in respiratory failure and death. The prognosis of IPF is poor, with a mortality rate comparable to advanced tumors.

In recent years medications such as pirfenidone and nintedanib have improved lung function for patients with IPF, but neither one has a certain advantage on mortality outcomes, often necessitating a lung transplant. Therefore, it is important to detect innovative options and new therapeutic strategies for the management of this condition.

Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have received increasing attention in the field of regenerative medicine, because of multi-lineage differentiation potential, migratory ability and self-renewal properties. Accumulating evidence suggests the role of MSC administration in attenuating the disease by anti-apoptotic, immunomodulation, and anti-inflammatory effects.

A meta-analysis performed by Li et al, which included multiple studies that evaluated the use of MSCs in animal models and that also added the parameter of survival rate, to see if it changed with the therapy. In the field of regenerative medicine, animal studies are relevant to clinical application and used to evaluate the safety and efficacy of MSC therapy. Several clinical trials have been conducted to explore the potential benefits of MSC transplantation for patients with IPF.

In their meta-analysis, MSCs treatment improved the survival rate and fibrosis scores of Pulmonary Fibrosis animal models, indicating the potentials of MSCs transplantation in preclinical studies of PF. They also compared the use of Bone Marrow and Adipose tissue-derived Mesenchymal Stem cells with Umbilical cord-derived MSCs and the latter showed better treatment results in regard to pulmonary fibrosis scores. 

They saw that the different studies showed improvements of mesenchymal stem cell therapy in both survival rate and pulmonary fibrosis scores in animal models. More trials are required to prove the safety and efficacy of MSCs therapy for IPF.


Li, DY., Li, RF., Sun, DX. et al. Mesenchymal stem cell therapy in pulmonary fibrosis: a meta-analysis of preclinical studies. Stem Cell Res Ther 12, 461 (2021).

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