Premature babies often have to be put on breathing machines because their lungs aren't fully developed, and some develop a condition called bronchopulmonary dysplasia, or BPD.
BPD is an inflammation and scarring in the lungs that results from the oxygen given to premature infants. The symptoms can last for many months and in a few cases leave the child with lifelong health problems. The condition affects some 10,000 newborns every year. So far treating it has usually meant tackling the symptoms.
A recent Canadian study might point to a new treatment, however, involving stem cells from umbilical cords.
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Bernard Thébaud, a neonatologist and senior scientist at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and CHEO Research Institute, recently authored a study in the journal Thorax that seems to show stem cells called mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) helping to repair damaged lungs in newborn rats.
Thébaud and his team took the stem cells from an umbilical cord and injected them into the lungs of baby rats as they were put on oxygen. The cells seemed to protect the lungs from damage when they were used immediately.