Promising pulmonary fibrosis treatment on path to clinical trials

02/26/2021 06:09 PM
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Professor Fu Yu-show (standing). CNA photo Feb. 26, 2021
Professor Fu Yu-show (standing). CNA photo Feb. 26, 2021

Taipei, Feb. 26 (CNA) A research team at Taiwan's National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University (NYCU) has transferred the technology for its experimental stem cell therapy treatment for pulmonary fibrosis to two biotech companies, in a first step toward beginning clinical trials, it announced Friday.

The research team led by Fu Yu-show (傅毓秀), a professor in the university's Institute of Anatomy and Cell Biology, first published details of its therapy, which involves transplanting stem cells collected from umbilical cord fluid into lungs affected by fibrosis, in the international medical journal Theranostics in 2019.

At a ceremony on Friday, Fu and her team said they have agreed to transfer the research to two local biotech firms, Fuhwasheng Regenerative Medicine Co. and Taiwan Bio Theraputics Co., in preparation for beginning domestic clinical trials.

According to Fu, pulmonary fibrosis is a disease characterized by the progressive scarring and thickening of tissue in the lungs, which can be caused by such factors as smoking, air pollution, infection and aging.

Because the scarring is permanent, and there are currently no medications to reverse the damage, treatment has typically focused on easing symptoms and improving quality of life, she said.

During the research process, the team found that umbilical stem cells transplanted into the lungs of mice with the disease not only survived, but also secreted growth hormones capable of reducing inflammation, according to Fu.

Aside from its anti-inflammatory effects, the therapy also promoted the degradation of collagen (a protein in scar tissue) and stimulated the regeneration of alveoli, the tiny sacs in the lungs responsible for the intake of oxygen, she said.

The mice given the therapy experienced higher blood oxygen saturation and lower respiratory rates, indicating deeper and less strained breathing, Fu said.

After publishing the results of the study, the team received inquiries from a number of pulmonary fibrosis patients and their families around the world, leading them to find commercial partners that could help bring the treatment to the market, she said.

According to NYCU President Lin Chi-Hung (林奇宏), Friday's event marked the university's first technology transfer since it was formed by the merger of National Yang-Ming University in Taipei and National Chiao Tung University in Hsinchu earlier this month.

(By Chen Chih-chung and Matthew Mazzetta)

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