By David Ebner, Staff Writer
Every fall, the billboards and television commercials urging you to get a flu shot start to creep into the national narrative. Many people have reservations about the flu vaccine; some state it causes headaches and even engages flu-like symptoms. However, the statistics strongly support the flu vaccination over trying to tough it out, especially for the elderly. The CDC estimates that, in people over 50, there is a 77 percent reduction in hospitalization for flu symptoms when vaccinated.
Why not give yourself the best possible chance to be healthy? During flu season, most people agree with this logic and get a flu shot. The benefits are even more compelling for those suffering from a lung disease like COPD. The coughing, shortness of breath and fatigue that come along with the flu are everyday symptoms for those with lung disease, and the possibility of contracting the flu can turn these already harsh symptoms into something potentially fatal like pneumonia or respiratory failure. That’s why the CDC recommends that people with these conditions get the flu shot yearly.
Most pulmonologists will also urge their patients with lung disease to get a flu shot, but this has led patients to ask about other options to protect and improve their lung function. If a shot can vaccinate them from the flu, what can be done about lung disease? New options are emerging, and some have discovered stem cells as the answer. Just like the flu vaccine, stem cell therapy offers the possibility of improving lives through effective management and treatment of debilitating conditions.
Stem cells have become a buzzword in the news over the past few years. However, much of the talk is about fetal stem cells; few people are talking about adult, autologous stem cells that are present in all of our bodies. As our body’s repair system, these cells live in blood, bone marrow and fat tissue. They naturally respond to injury or illness; however, stem cells don’t move quickly, hence our bodies don’t instantly heal when we get sick. Autologous stem cell therapy can expedite this natural healing process.
A clinic called the Lung Institute (lunginstitute.com) is working to change this. They treat lung diseases with stem cells from the patient’s own body. In essence, they extract the cells through a minimally invasive procedure, clean them and then reintroduce them to the lungs after giving the patient natural growth factors that promote cell replication. This quickens healing by directing the cells—and their healing properties—toward the diseased area. The result is healthier tissue growing in place of damaged tissue, and although this doesn’t cure the disease, it acts like the annual flu vaccine by slowing further degeneration and bringing a normal life back within reach.
We are in the midst of a fight to eradicate the flu just like the measles and polio of yesteryear. In the past, when the medical field banded together to tackle these diseases head-on, they were able to develop a vaccine. With the advancements in medical research today, the question of whether this can be done for lung disease is forthcoming, and by the looks of it, stem cells could play a starring role.
If you or a loved one suffers from a chronic lung disease, the specialists at the Lung Institute may be able to help. You can contact the Lung Institute at (855) 914-3212 or visit lunginstitute.com/health to find out if these new treatments are right for you.