Pioneering research by University of Adelaide could offer a huge step forward to treating patients with cystic fibrosis (CF). The research shows that the cells causing the genetic disorder could be replaced with healthy cells.
Dr Nigel Farrow, a Research Fellow from the University of Adelaide, described the process his team went through to replace the damaged cells:
“Our research which applies stem cell transplantation, involves harvesting adult stem cells from the lungs of CF patients, correcting them with gene therapy, and then reintroducing those cells back into the patient.
The new transplanted adult stem cells pass on their healthy genes to their 'daughter cells' providing a constant means to replenish the airways with healthy cells, and thereby combating the onset of cystic fibrosis airway disease".
According to the Stem Cell Research and Therapy journal, the adult stem cells used in this transplant are normally used to treat immunodeficiency disorders.
Worldwide, there are 70,000 people living with cystic fibrosis. The disorder – which currently has no cure – affects the airways and lungs, causing poor health and a shortened lifespan. In Australia, where the research was conducted, one in 25 people carry the CF gene. Even though many gene-carriers aren’t affected by the disorder, they may pass on the gene to their children. If both parents carry the gene, their children each have a 1 in 4 chance of being born with cystic fibrosis.
If the transplantation technique used here at University of Adelaide is perfected, it could significantly improve the lives of CF sufferers and accelerate research towards finding a permanent cure.