A new study has suggested that a drug used in stem cell therapy for certain cancers may also protect against cigarette smoke-induced lung injuries. We know that smoke from cigarettes, even in the case of secondary smoking, can be injurious to our lungs.
The cancer drug, plerixafor, stimulates the immune system to release more of a certain stem cell (hematopoietic progenitor cells, or Hematopoietic progenitor cells (HPCs)) from the bone marrow into the bloodstream. The drug is used to treat some types of cancer that originate in the blood cells. Stem cells have the potential to develop into many different kinds of cells in the body and are involved in tissue repair.
According to a previous research, lower numbers of HPCs in the bloodstream correspond to an increased severity of emphysema, a form of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). COPD is a progressive lung disease that makes breathing difficult.
Studies suggest that the reduced number of circulating HPCs prevents the lungs from being able to repair smoke-related damage. Based on this theory, researchers explored the effect of plerixafor on stem cell circulation–and subsequent lung function–in mice. One group of animals was exposed to cigarette smoke five days a week for 22 weeks and received regular injections of plerixafor and another group was exposed to smoke but did not receive treatment.
The stem cells collected from all groups of mice showed that there was no detectable depletion of HPCs in the group that received the treatment. In fact, HPC numbers increased after two weeks of treatment for the mice who received the injections
Meanwhile, the lung fluid samples from the treated group showed no significant changes in the number of white blood cells or inflammation as compared to a control group. Increases in these factors typically indicate illness or injury.