Asthma is one of the most common health conditions in the United States. Today, it affects almost 30 million people to some degree. It’s also a very common condition within children and affects one in 12 kids in the US. Despite that commonality, asthma is a serious condition that can be aggravated by a number of things, including COVID-19.
What Is Asthma?
According to Healthline, asthma is
“an inflammatory disease of the airways to the lungs. It makes breathing difficult and can make some physical activities difficult or even impossible.”
The Mayo Clinic expands on this definition, explaining,
“Asthma is a condition in which your airways narrow and swell and produce extra mucus. This can make breathing difficult and trigger coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. For some people, asthma is a minor nuisance. For others, it can be a major problem that interferes with daily activities and may lead to a life-threatening asthma attack.”
What Causes Asthma?
We have yet to identify a single, underlying cause for asthma that applies to all sufferers. However, many different factors contribute to the development of the condition. Genetics is one of the most impactful – individuals with relatives who suffer from asthma are likely to develop asthma themselves. Those with a history of viral infections during childhood are also likely to develop asthma, as are those who encounter allergens and irritants frequently.
What Are the Symptoms of Asthma?
Asthma attacks can vary from mild to severe and even life-threatening. The symptoms present will vary significantly depending on the severity of the attack. Because attacks left untreated can increase in severity, patients and those around them should be vigilant about noticing symptoms as soon as possible. Some of the symptoms that accompany asthma attacks include:
- Coughing, particularly during exercise, at night, and while laughing
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness in your chest
- Fatigue and tiredness
What Are the Conventional Treatments?
Asthma can be treated in a number of different ways depending on the type of asthma in question, the situation (attack, prevention, etc.), and other factors. These can include:
- Breathing Exercises: Breathing exercises can be used to help lengthen the time between attacks, and even prevent some attacks completely.
- Rescue: Many asthmatics carry a rescue inhaler with them. These inhalers provide immediate relief of asthma attack symptoms by delivering medication directly to the affected airways.
- Control: Many asthmatics use not only a rescue inhaler but also a preventative inhaler. These are taken once or twice daily and deliver medication to the lungs and airways that helps control asthma over time, improve breathing, and reduce the need for a rescue inhaler at all.
- Breathing Treatments: In some cases, particularly situations where an asthmatic is battling a cold or the flu, a rescue inhaler may not provide sufficient help to combat an asthma attack. In these situations, breathing treatments are given via a nebulizer and facemask or mouthpiece.
What Is the Impact of COVID-19 on Asthma Sufferers?
According to the CDC, people who suffer from asthma are at a significantly increased risk with COVID-19. The agency stated, “People with asthma may be at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19. COVID-19 can affect your respiratory tract (nose, throat, lungs), cause an asthma attack, and possibly lead to pneumonia and acute respiratory disease.” Note that this does not mean that those with asthma are more susceptible to infection, but if infected, may suffer from more severe symptoms from the virus.
How May Stem Cell Therapy Help?
As the building blocks of the body, stem cells have been studied in great depth for their value in treating a number of health conditions, including asthma. Several studies have been conducted on stem cells and their effects on asthma, including one at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and the National Institute of Science and Technology for Regenerative Medicine. The study involved mice and the infusion of mesenchymal stem cells – the group of mice receiving the stem cells (rather than the control group or the steroid group, showed reduced lung inflammation and improved lung function, as well as improved T-cell immunosuppression.
Another study, this one conducted at Monash University, found that
“MSCs could effectively reduce inflammation, reversed signs of airway remodeling and completely normalized airway/lung fibrosis and airway hyperresponsiveness.”
Stem Cell Types
It should be noted that multiple types of stem cells are used in medical research today. The studies above used autologous stem cells sourced from fat tissue. However, autologous stem cells are not ideal, as they are the same age as the patient’s body and have accumulated mutations and damage that may trigger an adverse immune system response on infusion.
Allogeneic stem cells, on the other hand, are derived not from the patient, but from banked and screened umbilical cord blood and tissue. These stem cells are completely unmarred by damage or mutations, making them virtually invisible to the immune system. In addition, because they are very young, they are high-energy and much more capable of delivering healing and repair, reducing inflammation, and regenerating damaged tissue.
Ultimately, stem cell therapy may provide a vital solution for patients suffering from asthma in conjunction with COVID-19, as well as those who have not been exposed to the virus. It is important that patients and their family members understand that the FDA has not approved any such treatment, though, and all stem cell therapies should be considered experimental only.
It is also important to choose the right physician. Patients are recommended to choose a physician with experience in stem cell therapy, but specifically using allogeneic stem cells.
Source:< a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/06/170628095853.htm" target="_blank">https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/06/170628095853.htm