CIRM funds many projects seeking to better understand respiratory disease and to translate those discoveries into new therapies.
Severe blockage of the major airway, or trachea, is relatively rare but is severely debilitating and often causes death. Estimates suggest 200 new cases occur in California each year. The blockage most often occurs after injury, treatment for a tumor or following insertion of a breathing tube for other medical procedures. Physicians currently treat these blockages through surgery or by using a stent to hold the airway open. But neither approach produces very good or lasting results. Replacing the damaged trachea with a new one could be a potential cure. A few teams around the world are working with different types of natural and synthetic scaffolds to try to grow new tracheas for transplant using stem cells.
Disease Team Awards
University of California, Davis
The team uses a trachea from a cadaver as a scaffold, removing the soft tissue cells and then seeding the remaining scaffold with two types of stem cells from the patient. That construct is grown in a bioreactor until it is ready for transplant in the patient. The team has already used the procedure through the European compassionate use exemption in five dying patients, saving three of their lives. They plan to use this award to do tests in non-human primates to better understand the role of each type of stem cell used to seed the scaffold.