Cord-derived stem cells hold true potential for a major breakthrough in the treatment of bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), according to an article in the journal Thorax co-authored by Bernard Thebaud, MD, PhD, senior scientist at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute (OHRI) and [removed]CHEO Research Institute[/removed]. “I am confident that we have the talent and the tools here at CHEO and OHRI to find a treatment for BPD. These findings published today are helping us get there.” Thebaud is also a neonatologist at CHEO and the Ottawa Hospital, and a professor in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Ottawa.

Thebaud and colleagues performed experiments with newborn rats given oxygen, because the lung development of these newborn rodents mimics that of a human born prematurely at 24 weeks. Five major findings resulted from their work.

Mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) from a human umbilical cord (not blood) have a protective effect on the lungs when injected into the lungs as the rats were put on oxygen and they have a reparative effect when injected 2 weeks after being on oxygen. When a cell-free substance produced by MSCs was administered instead of MSCs, it had the same protective and reparative effects as the stem cells. When examined after 6 months (the equivalent of 40 human years), treated animals had better exercise performance and persistent benefit in lung structure. Lastly, MSCs did not adversely affect the long-term health of normal rats.

Within the next 2 years, Thebaud wants to initiate a pilot study with 20 human patients showing that this stem-cell therapy is feasible and safe; in 4 years he wants to embark on a randomized control trial.