Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is an incurable lung disorder which makes it difficult to breathe. It includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema and is characterized by a persistent cough and mucus production. While it is not curable, it can be managed through ongoing treatment to provide patients with effective symptom control and good quality of life. There are a few key types of lung damage that can occur in COPD:
- With emphysema, the air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs are compromised. The walls of alveoli are stretched and actually cause the lungs to expand, which makes it more difficult for air to move in and out.
- In chronic bronchitis, the bronchial tubes are constantly inflamed, which limits airflow. In specific, the cilia (hair-like structures in the airways) become damaged. The airway can also become swollen and clogged.
- Refractory asthma is also marked by swelling of the bronchial airways. Even medications cannot reverse the swelling.
Here, we examine a form of COPD treatment which has been gaining attention recently.
Blood-derived platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy is increasingly being used to treat a broad range of conditions, including sports injuries and arthritis. The procedure is performed via intravenous blood extraction. After the blood cells are harvested, they are processed, and the platelets are separated from other blood components. With the higher concentration of platelets, the treated blood is then reinserted into the patient with the hopes of reducing inflammation and speeding up the body’s healing process.
The problem with blood-derived PRP is that the evidence illustrating the effectiveness of this treatment for COPD is lacking. While some studies have been performed and suggest the treatment’s ability to support hair regrowth and reduce osteoarthritis pain, the lack of definitive proof supporting PRP therapy’s ability to make a noticeable impact on COPD has spurred criticism.
A Better Alternative
Stem cell PRP takes PRP injections a step further by mixing platelets with stem cells to treat the structural airway issues present in all forms of COPD. In numerous studies, this approach has shown promise. Coupling blood derivatives with stem cell therapy have proven effective in tissue regeneration in areas like the knee and gums, for instance. In one report, researchers concluded that the therapy “offers a promising therapeutic approach that has shown potential in diverse degenerative lung diseases” based on findings across 15 separate studies.
Through traditional PRP treatment, platelets become 5-10 times more concentrated, or 150,000- 450,000 platelets per microliter. When combined with stem cells, however, they become supercharged and platelet counts are much higher. Because research suggests that the therapeutic level for platelet count should be closer to 1,000,000 per cubic milliliter, PRP and stem cells are far more powerful than PRP alone. Moreover, PRP therapy is derived from whole blood alone, meaning it contains very few CD34+ cells – the cells commonly found in the umbilical cord and bone marrow which have the greatest self-renewal capacity – if any.
With stem cell therapy for COPD, it is guaranteed that these cells will be introduced into the body in a higher concentration. They can then promote the healing process, replacing countless cells throughout the entire body, including the lung tissue.