Doctors in Germany could have achieved a breakthrough by treating a young girl with a serious lung condition that can lead to heart failure with umbilical cord stem cell products.
Researchers at the Medical School of Hanover (MHH) announced it was the “world’s first successful treatment to halt the usually fatal course of the disease.”
Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is high blood pressure in the blood vessels that supply the lungs.
There is currently no cure for the condition that can affect people of all ages.
Risk factors include family history, previous blood clots in the lungs, mitral valve problems, and sleep apnea.
MHH experts treated their three-year-old patient a total of five times over six months with mesenchymal stem cell products obtained from a human umbilical cord.
Mesenchymal stem cells are multipotent stem cells found in the bone marrow that are important for making and repairing skeletal tissue such as cartilage.
Professor Georg Hansmann is director of the MHH Translational Cardiopulmonary Biomedicine research group and the clinic’s principal attending physician in the Department of Pediatric Cardiology and Intensive Care Medicine.
Hansmann said: “The treatment significantly improved growth, exercise tolerance and clinical cardiovascular variables. It also reduced the number of plasma markers in the blood that can be detected in vasoconstriction and inflammation.”
The expert noted, “After six months, not only was there a marked improvement in health, but there were no unwanted side effects.”
Hansmann said this was the first successful therapy for people suffering from pronounced forms of PAH.
The doctor added: “Further studies are needed to confirm and investigate the benefits of this new stem cell therapy.”
Repetitive mesenchymal stem cell therapy is based on cells from the umbilical cord of newborns.
Research by the MHH experts showed that the products of these stem cells from the umbilical cord could not only improve regeneration in the damaged blood vessels.
They were also found to inhibit the inflammation of blood vessels and curb damage to certain parts of the cells.
Hansmann said: “We have evidence that this therapy had multiple beneficial effects.
In the heart of the treated patients, it mainly protected the energy-producing mitochondria. In the lungs, the treatment mainly inhibited inflammation and stimulated regeneration.”
Hansmann underlined that “a very large team of scientists, researchers and physicians helped implement this ‘individual healing experiment’.”
The MHH collaborated on this treatment with Berlin’s Charité and the University of Leiden in the Netherlands.
Hansmann came up with the new therapeutic approach through preliminary experiments with animal mesenchymal stem cells, which he conducted at Harvard Medical School in Boston in the United States in 2011 and 2012, research at the MHH, and ultimately at the request of the parents. of the girl.
The MHH team of experts assumes that such therapy must be repeated at regular intervals to be successful in the long term.
The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) lists shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pain and a rapid heart rate, among other possible PAH symptoms.
On its website, the NHS warns: “Symptoms often get worse during exercise, which can limit your ability to participate in physical activities.
“If you have a form of pulmonary hypertension known as pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), you may not have any symptoms until the condition is quite advanced.”
The NHS adds: “Pulmonary hypertension cannot be cured, but treatment can reduce symptoms and help you manage your condition. Pulmonary hypertension usually gets worse over time. If left untreated, it can cause heart failure, which can be fatal. can be, so it’s important treatment is started as soon as possible.”
The Medical University of Hanover, or Hanover Medical School (MHH) was founded in 1965.
With more than 3,500 students and 8,100 full-time employees, it is the leading scientific research institution in the northwestern German state of Lower Saxony.