Dr. Bernard Thébaud lives in two very different worlds. As a specialist in the Stollery Children’s Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, he cares for tiny babies, many of whom struggle for breath after being born weeks before they are due. Across town, in his laboratory in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Alberta, Dr. Thébaud dons a lab coat and peers into a microscope to examine the precise effect of stem cells on the lungs.Today, with his scientific research being published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, Dr. Thébaud has made a significant leap to bridge the gap between those two worlds.
An international team of scientists led by Dr. Thébaud has demonstrated for the first time that stem cells protect and repair the lungs of newborn rats. “The really exciting thing that we discovered was that stem cells are like little factories, pumping out healing factors,” says Dr. Thébaud, an Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research Clinical Scholar. “That healing liquid seems to boost the power of the healthy lung cells and helps them to repair the lungs.”
In this study, Thébaud’s team simulated the conditions of prematurity – giving the newborn rats oxygen. The scientists then took stem cells, derived from bone marrow, and injected them into the rats’ airways. Two weeks later, the rats treated with stem cells were able to run twice as far, and had better survival rates. When Thébaud’s team looked at the lungs, they found the stem cells had repaired the lungs, and prevented further damage.
“I want to congratulate Dr. Thébaud and his team. This research offers real hope for a new treatment for babies with chronic lung disease,” says Dr. Roberta Ballard, professor of pediatrics, University of California, San Francisco. “In a few short years, I anticipate we will be able to take these findings and begin clinical trials with premature babies.”
– via EurkaAlert