First patient treated in world-first cell therapy trial to heal the lungs of preterm babies

Posted on Friday, March 24, 2023

Researchers have treated the first patient in an innovative clinical trial of a cell therapy that aims to prevent very premature babies from developing a chronic lung disease called bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD). This is the first trial of its kind in in the world.

Very premature babies need extra oxygen and mechanical intervention to breathe, but this damages their lungs, causing BPD. These babies have smaller and weaker lungs that can’t send as much oxygen to their growing brains. The lack of oxygen during brain development can lead to learning disabilities, or problems walking, hearing and seeing. Approximately 1,000 babies in Canada develop BPD every year, and there is no cure or treatment.

Dr. Bernard Thébaud’s team previously discovered that cells from the umbilical cord tissue, called mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs), can heal lung injury and prevent BPD in newborn rodents. Since then, the team has been working tirelessly to bring this novel therapy to babies and their families through clinical trials.

“This is a critical step towards a potential breakthrough therapy that could help premature babies in Canada and around the world," says Dr. Bernard Thébaud, a neonatologist and senior scientist at The Ottawa Hospital and CHEO and professor at the University of Ottawa.

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