Introduction: During the last few decades, cell-based therapies have shown great potential to treat patients with lung diseases . It has been proposed that the administration of cells into an injured lung could be considered as a therapeutic method to repair and replace lost lung tissue [2, 3]. Using this method, transplanted cells with the ability to proliferate and differentiate into alveolar cells, have been suggested as a therapeutic strategy. Cell-based therapy aims to perform structural repair (engraftment of cells) and have an immunomodulation effect to treat the diseased lung. The ability to enhance endogenous stem cells to regenerate lung tissue is key for the treatment of a multitude of fatal lung diseases, such as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). Originally cell-based therapies were thought as ‘the ultimate strategy’ for regenerating diseased lung, but these kinds of therapies have shown to be more complex than specific molecular targeted therapy. Due to the challenges facing cell-based therapy, achieving success to find a safe and efficient strategy for IPF treatment has been slow.
Areas covered: In this review, the latest investigations using various types of cells for IPF therapy has been presented. The cells studied for cell-based therapies in IPF are lung alveolar epithelial cells, lung resident stem cells and exogenous adult stem cells such as MSCs derived from bone and adipose. Moreover, recent clinical trials in this field are also listed.
Expert opinion: After many years of investigation, the use of cell-based therapies to treat IPF is still at the experimental phase. Problems include bioethical issues, safety of cell transplantation, routes of delivery and the dose and timing of administration. Further investigations are necessary to establish the best strategy for using cell-based therapies effectively for the treatment of IPF.