Australian researchers are working on an exciting new stem cell treatment for cystic fibrosis.

Dr Nigel Farrow from the University of Adelaide is leading a team that is attempting to remove stem cells from the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients, correct them with gene therapy, and then reintroduce them back into the lungs.

In experiments with mice, the researchers have managed to strip the lining of the airway and then successfully transplant healthy lung cells.

The mice had a marker gene in place of the corrective CF gene for the initial studies.

“The key to these successful transplantations was our innovative method; we first eliminated the existing surface cells, which then created the space required to introduce the new cells,” says Dr Farrow.

“The new transplanted adult stem cells pass on their healthy genes to their ‘daughter cells’ providing a constant means to replenish the airways with healthy cells, and thereby combatting the onset of cystic fibrosis airway disease.

“If we can perfect this technique, it will accelerate this exciting research which could significantly improve the lives of those living with cystic fibrosis and potentially combat this chronic life-limiting illness.”

In Australia, one in every 2,500 babies has CF, and one in 25 people carry the defective gene. Even though carriers are not affected by the disorder, they may pass the gene to their children. If both parents are carriers, each of their children has a 1 in 4 chance of being born with the disorder.

A full report on progress so far is accessible here.