Newborn Medicine Program | Research and Innovation

Bone marrow stem cells may prevent lung disease in preemies

Premature babies often need to be placed on ventilators, but these life-saving machines can sometimes damage their delicate lungs. In recent experiments in newborn mice whose lungs were injured, stem cells taken from the bone marrow were injected into the bloodstream and found their way to the lungs. Once there, the stem cells ensured proper growth and development. Surprisingly, even the fluid in which the cells were grown was able to protect the lungs – in fact, better than the stem cells themselves.Kourembanas

Stella Kourembanas, MD, Chief of Boston Children’s Division of Newborn Medicine, believes this fluid, or certain proteins her lab has isolated within it, may become a future treatment to prevent preemies from developing chronic lung disease. She would also like to conduct follow-up experiments that use stem cells taken from the umbilical cord, which can be obtained in a less invasive manner than bone marrow cells.

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Research was published in the December 1 issue of American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.