Paracrine effects and heterogeneity of marrow-derived stem/progenitor cells: relevance for the treatment of respiratory diseases

Cells Tissues Organs. 2013;197(6):445-73. doi: 10.1159/000348831. Epub 2013 May 4.


Stem cell-based treatment may represent a hope for the treatment of acute lung injury and pulmonary fibrosis, and other chronic lung diseases, such as cystic fibrosis, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It is well established in preclinical models that bone marrow-derived stem and progenitor cells exert beneficial effects on inflammation, immune responses and repairing of damage in virtually all lung-borne diseases. While it was initially thought that the positive outcome was due to a direct engraftment of these cells into the lung as endothelial and epithelial cells, paracrine factors are now considered the main mechanism through which stem and progenitor cells exert their therapeutic effect. This knowledge has led to the clinical use of marrow cells in pulmonary hypertension with endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) and in COPD with mesenchymal stromal (stem) cells (MSCs). Bone marrow-derived stem cells, including hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells, MSCs, EPCs and fibrocytes, encompass a wide array of cell subsets with different capacities of engraftment and injured tissue-regenerating potential. The characterization/isolation of the stem cell subpopulations represents a major challenge to improve the efficacy of transplantation protocols used in regenerative medicine and applied to lung disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cell Transplantation / methods*
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / surgery*
  • Stem Cells / cytology*