Taipei, Aug. 28 (CNA) A Taiwanese research team announced on Wednesday that it has discovered the key to turning around idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a type of chronic scarring lung disease, in mice in just one month.
The team found that mesenchymal stem cell in the human body's umbilical cord is able to largely improve IPF -- a lung disease that results in scarring (fibrosis) of the lungs for an unknown reason, according to the team composed of researchers from National Yang-Ming University, Taipei Veterans General Hospital and Kaohsiung Veterans General Hospital.
It took three years for the team to achieve the findings, which showed human mesenchymal stem cells are capable of preventing inflammation in the lungs of mice and then reverse the progression of the disease by enacting macrophages to eat up the scars on the tissue, thus repairing lung cells and turning the hard fibrosis into soft tissue, the team said.
The conclusion was made following an experiment in which the decaying lungs of mice were largely repaired seven days following a transplant of the special mesenchymal stem cell into its body, according to the team.
It added that the mice's lungs almost returned to normal a month later.
Fu Yu-show (傅毓秀), a professor with the Faculty of Medicine, National Yang-Ming University, who participated in the research project, said the occurrence rate and the mortality rate related to IPF have risen sharply in recent years, including in her own father, as a result of worsening air pollution.
Once diagnosed with IPF, the scarring on the patient's lungs gets worse over time, making it hard for him or her to take in a deep breath and the lungs cannot take in enough oxygen.
Although the research team has conducted only an animal experiment, Fu stressed that the finding has been a breakthrough in dealing with IPF and has been published in the medical journal Theranostic.
An experiment will be conducted on human body in the near future to further explore the cause, she said.