MONTREAL, June 19,2008/CNW Telbec – Two Quebecers suffering from pulmonary hypertension, a rare but debilitating lung disease, were treated in Montreal with their own gene-modified stem cells. This experimental treatment was administered at the Jewish General Hospital’s Centre for Pulmonary Vascular Disease.
“Our present therapies for pulmonary hypertension may control the disease for a few years, but often fail and do not represent a cure,” said Dr. David Langleben, Director of the Centre for Pulmonary Vascular Disease and the local Principle Investigator for this study. “We need new approaches such as this cell-based therapy.”
The therapy, developed by Dr. Duncan Stewart, CEO of the Ottawa Health Research Institute, and founding scientist of Northern Therapeutics Inc., is unique in the world as it is the only clinical study employing patient stem cells genetically modified for clinical use in lung disease.
A team of scientists at the JGH led by Dr. Jacques Galipeau, Hematologist and stem cell researcher, genetically engineered the stem cells with synthetic DNA in an ultra specialized laboratory to produce nitric oxide, a critical molecule involved in the repair and protection of blood vessels. With the sponsorship of the Stem Cell Network, the study has moved forward and the highest cell dose ever given to a human subject was administered to one of the patients.
“These enhanced stem cells are given in a heart catheterization suite, and lodge in the lung where it is hoped they will stimulate the repair and regeneration of blood vessels in the lung,” explained Dr. Galipeau, Associate Professor of Medicine and Oncology at McGill University.
This procedure has cured laboratory rats with pulmonary hypertension, and this study in Canadian volunteers afflicted with pulmonary hypertension seeks to assess the safety of this type of stem cell treatment. This study, which includes a site in Toronto as well as in Montreal, is the only one of its kind in Canada, and rests at the cutting edge of stem cell therapies worldwide.
Two patients, enrolled in Toronto, were treated but received a lower dose of cells. This research team is also planning to use a very similar enhanced stem cell treatment in the near future to treat patients suffering from heart attacks. These new therapies offer hope for better patient outcomes.