Vietnam performs world’s first stem cell transplant in treatment of bronchopulmonary dysplasia

Tuesday, 2017-10-31 09:47:27
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Prof., Dr. Nguyen Thanh Liem and his team perform the stem cell transplant on the patient. (Photo courtesy to Vinmec)
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NDO – The Hanoi-based Vinmec healthcare system has become the first medical facility in the world to successfully carry out bone marrow mononuclear cells transplantation to treat established bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BDP).

The US prestigious medical magazine American Journal of Case Reports, in its latest volume for October, announced the world’s first case study of a successful stem cell transplant for incurable BDP, carried out by a group of scientists from the Vinmec Research Institute of Stem Cells and Gene Technology, led by its Head, Prof., Dr. Nguyen Thanh Liem.

The study reports the successful treatment of a 30-week-old neonate, weighing 1.5kg. In May 2016, the patient was admitted to Vinmec International Hospital at four months old, suffering from infections due to prolonged mechanical ventilation. The male newborn was at risk of fatality from recurrent infections and increasing pulmonary arterial pressure as traditional treatments did not work.

After a period of intensive care, in September last year, he underwent stem cell transplantation at Vinmec Hospital to improve his respiratory function. Four weeks later, the child could breathe normally and was completely removed from oxygen support. At present, the baby is 22 months old and growing to the equivalent of full-term babies.

“The world of medicine has not recognised the traditional methods of treating BDP in preterm infants. Meanwhile, stem cell transplants can be effective because of the ability to block and reduce lung fibrosis, whilst being able to differentiate into new alveoli to improve lung structure and function. Thanks to this, the patient can breathe without needing to rely on machinery," Prof., Dr. Liem said.

After this first case, Vinmec successfully applied stem cell transplant to treat BDP in two other preterm births at week 26 and 31.

Vinmec has invested intensively in research and application of stem cells - gene technology. (Photo courtesy to Vinmec)

The breakthrough achievement by Vinmec marks a great turning point in the field of the nursing and care of premature babies. According to statistics released by the Ministry of Health, every year Vietnam has approximately 100,000 preterm newborns that require special care. Of these, 30-80% of preterm infants at 26-28 weeks are at risk of death in their first two years of life, due to BDP, infection, and pulmonary arterial hypertension. This figure increases to 80-90% at 24-25 weeks. In particular, 50% of resuscitated preterm babies are hospitalised over five times per year due to pneumonia.

The American Journal of Case Reports is the world's most prestigious medical journal that publishes innovative new treatments and diagnostics or issues in first-time disease detection. Reports published in the journal will also be included in PubMed - the US electronic medical library - which publishes valuable research in the field of medicine that the global science community can investigate and refer to.

Being included in the American journal has affirmed the reputation of Vinmec's stem cell research within the global medical community. The facility also hosted the first international seminar on stem cells and gene technology yesterday with the participation of leading experts from around the world.

After five years of operation, Vinmec has invested strongly in research and the application of stem cells - gene technology. In addition to successful stem cell transplants for cerebral palsy and BPD, Vinmec is applying stem cells treatment to treat other complicated diseases, such as spinal cord injury, knee degeneration, myocardial infarction, congenital biliary atresia, cirrhosis, autism and diabetes, with encouraging results initially.

The study of stem cell transplantation for successful BPD treatment is the 70th paper published in prestigious international medical journals by Prof., Dr. Liem. In particular, there are many works that have attracted special attention, such as the technique for treatment of biliary atresia by laparoscopic surgery and endoscopic biliary cystic surgery, which has also been included in the pediatric textbook.