Australian researchers have published a breakthrough that shows promise of adult stem cell treatments for lung diseases. The team isolated human amnion epithelial cells (hAECs) from term placenta that have stem cell and anti-inflammatory properties. The cells were able to differentiate into lung-type cells, and when injected into mice with lung damage, the cells reduced inflammation and scarring in the lungs.

The study's lead researcher, Associate Professor Yuben Moodley, said:

"I would think that it may be pretty useful in patients who are on ventilators and have then developed inflammation from the ventilation and subsequent scarring, so in acute respiratory distress syndrome, as we call, it would be useful.

"It may be useful in patients with emphysema, patients with occupational lung diseases like asbestosis and probably in patients with severe asthma where there's a strong inflammatory component and scarring that may be treated."

Professor Moodley also noted that:

"Given that there are no ethical issues, that the cells are freely available from discarded placenta and that they could be easily grown and injected, it would be a near-term issue rather than a long-term issue."

The study is published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.