Stem Cell Therapy for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

What is COPD and What Causes It?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD , is a chronic obstructive lung disease that makes it difficult to breathe. Long-term exposure to irritants that damage the lungs and airways causes COPD. Obstructive lung diseases are a group of conditions that make it difficult to breathe out by obstructing or narrowing the airways. These conditions include:
  • COPD
  • Asthma
  • Bronchiectasis (widened airway allowing excess mucus to build up)
  • Some types of bronchitis (airway inflammation)
Obstructive lung diseases present with reduced airflow into and out of the lungs, leading to difficulty breathing, wheezing, and coughing. In contrast, restrictive lung diseases present with reduced lung capacity due to stiff or damaged lung tissue. COPD is a type of obstructive lung disease that is primarily characterized by chronic inflammation and narrowing of the airways, as well as damage to the alveoli (small air sacs) in the lungs. This damage leads to:
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness
The most common cause of COPD is smoking, which accounts for around 80% of cases. However, exposure to other irritants can also contribute to the development of the disease. These irritants may include air pollution, second hand smoke, and workplace dust and chemicals.  Over time, COPD can irreversibly damage the lungs, making it increasingly difficult to breathe. In severe cases, the disease can significantly impact a person’s quality of life and may even be life-threatening 1. COPD is further categorized into two subtypes: chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

Chronic Bronchitis

Chronic bronchitis involves inflammation and narrowing of the airways, leading to increased mucus production and chronic cough. For a chronic bronchitis diagnosis, a chronic cough needs to last for at least three months in two consecutive years 2. Other findings indicative of chronic bronchitis include:
  • Wheezing
  • Crackles heard in the lungs
  • Cyanosis, or bluing of the skin and lips due to low oxygen delivery to the body 
  • Shortness of breath
  • An increase in red blood cells in response to low oxygen


Emphysema involves damage to the alveoli in the lungs. Alveoli are small grape-like clusters of cells in the lungs that exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide. This damage causes the alveoli to lose their elasticity, which makes it difficult for air to be exhaled from the lungs. Findings indicative of emphysema include: 
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • A barrel-shaped chest on x-ray, which could be due to chronically having excess air trapped in the lungs 
  • Whistling or squeaky sounds during breathing
For an emphysema diagnosis, a chest x-ray needs to show a widened lung diameter and flat diaphragm.  There are two major types of emphysema:
  • Centriacinar affects respiratory bronchioles (tiny air tubes) without affecting the alveoli responsible for gas exchange at the ends of the bronchioles. This type of emphysema has a strong association with smoking and occurs in the upper lobes of the lungs
  • Panacinar affects both respiratory bronchioles and alveoli. This type of emphysema is mainly genetic. A genetic change causes an alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) enzyme deficiency that affects the lower lobes of the lungs. 
COPD affects people of all races and ethnicities, and is the third leading cause of death worldwide, with over 3 million deaths annually. COPD is more commonly diagnosed in:
  • People over the age of 40
  • Smokers
  • People from low and middle-income countries with higher air pollutants

Stages of COPD

Physicians monitor COPD severity by calculating how much air a patient can forcefully blow out of their lungs in one second. This is called forced expiratory volume (FEV1) 3
  1. Mild (Stage 1) is where FEV1 is equal to or greater than 80% of normal. Patients may not have any symptoms or may have a chronic cough and/or sputum production.
  2. Moderate (Stage 2) is where FEV1 is between 50% and 79% of normal. Patients may have shortness of breath during physical activity, and their cough and sputum production may be more frequent.
  3. Severe (Stage 3) is where FEV1 is between 30% and 49% of normal. Patients experience significant shortness of breath, especially during physical activity, and their cough and sputum production is frequent.
Very Severe (Stage 4) is where FEV1 is less than 30% of normal, or FEV1 is less than 50% of normal with chronic respiratory failure. Patients at this stage have extremely limited airflow and may experience life-threatening exacerbations.

Stem Cell Therapy for COPD FAQ

The Scientific Rationale Behind Stem Cell Therapy for COPD

Currently, there is no known cure for COPD. The standard-of-care treatments may slow down disease progression and manage symptoms but do not reverse the damage done to the respiratory system. Most drugs for COPD also have unpleasant side effects that tend to lower the quality of life. Some patients may not respond well to the available treatments or may not be eligible for certain treatments due to other health conditions or contraindications. 

This is where stem cell therapy can uniquely deliver benefits.

How Much Does Stem Cell Therapy Cost for COPD?

The cost depends on the specific treatment the patient would be undergoing and how many treatment sessions they’d need. Book a consultation with us today to get your personalized stem cell therapy treatment plan.

How Many Treatments Will I Need?

Typically, you will need 1-2 treatments, depending on the plan of care established between you and your doctor. All treatment appointments are in person, but the initial consultation and follow-up can be done by phone.  

Some people do come back for additional treatments over the course of months or years. This largely depends on the stage of your disease, how well you respond to the treatment, and what your treatment goals are.

Your Patient Journey with Stem Cell Therapy for COPD

Step 1: Application and initial consultation

Our questionnaire and initial consultation help us determine whether you’re a good candidate for stem cell therapy, along with the best treatment plans for you. Our patient advocate will walk you through the process, pricing, and payment plans.

Step 2: Physical exam

You’ll come in for a physical exam in preparation for the treatment and also to assess your current symptoms and health status.

Step 3: Stem cell collection

Your procedure will begin where we harvest cells from your bone marrow or fat tissues. We will then isolate the stem cells from these tissues in the clinic before administering your first treatment

Step 4: Stem cell culture

If applicable, we will send your stem cells to the lab to expand them in numbers. 

Step 5: Future treatments

Your future stem cell treatments will be done using your cultured stem cells. 

Step 6: Follow-up appointments

Our team will keep in contact with you to monitor your treatment progress and support you through your recovery.

Advantages of Stem Cell Therapy vs Standard Treatments and Other Alternative Treatments for COPD


Regenerates healthy lung cells instead of treating the symptoms of lung damage.

Minimal Side Effects

Peace of mind knowing you won’t experience the downsides of traditional treatment approaches.

Deeper Approach

Treats a fundamental underlying mechanism of the disease.

Results May Last Years

By combatting lung damage, benefits may last many months to years.

No Daily Pill To Take

Nothing to do after your in-office treatment except let your body do its job.

Harnesses Your Own Healing Power

Use the power of your own stem cells and biology to do the healing.

Current Standard-of-Care Treatments for COPD and Their Shortfalls

The current standard of care treatments for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) include 18-20:

Bronchodilators (medications that relax and open the airways)

Inhaled medications designed to relax and open muscles in the airways, making it easier to breathe. Can be further subdivided into two categories:

Beta-agonists act on the beta-2 receptor in the lungs to relax smooth muscle. Beta-agonists can be ‘short-acting’ and used for acute exacerbations, or ‘long-acting’ for the prevention of airway constriction.

Short-acting beta-agonists include albuterol and levalbuterol. Whereas, long-acting beta-agonists include salmeterol and formoterol.

Common side effects of these medications include:

  • Tremors
  • Arrhythmias
  • Palpitations

Anticholinergics (muscarinic antagonists)
block muscarinic receptors in the lungs, which decreases the production of cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP). These drugs prevent constriction of lung muscles. Common anticholinergics include tiotropium and ipratropium.

Common side effects include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Blurry vision
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Hot and flushed skin
  • Urinary retention
  • Constipation
  • Agitation
  • Delirium

Inhaled corticosteroids

Corticosteroids reduce inflammation in airways and help prevent COPD exacerbations in some patients. Common inhaled corticosteroids include fluticasone, budesonide, ad beclomethasone.

Side effects of corticosteroid treatments may include:

  • Hoarseness
  • Oral thrush (a yeast infection)
  • Pneumonia
  • Nosebleeds
  • Weakened immune system
  • Increased appetite, weight gain, and insulin resistance, which tends to worsen disease outcomes
  • Loss of muscle mass and bone density

Combination inhalers

These medications contain a corticosteroid and bronchodilator in a single inhaler. Some examples include:

  • Fluticasone/salmeterol (Advair)
  • Budesonide/formoterol (Symbicort)

Despite the availability of these treatments, they are not effective in all patients, and some individuals may experience severe side effects. Although inhalers reduce the flare-ups in COPD, they do not fix the damage done to the respiratory system or slow the progression of the disease.

Some patients may not respond well to the available treatments, or may not be eligible for certain treatments due to other health conditions or contraindications.

Pulmonary rehabilitation

Pulmonary rehabilitation is a multifaceted program to help patients with COPD improve their lung function, reduce symptoms, and improve their quality of life. Rehabilitation consists of:
  • Breathing techniques such as pursed lip breathing to avoid feeling out of breath under stress
  • Education on how lungs work and change during COPD
  • Psychological counseling for those who feel depression or anxiety with their diagnosis
  • Exercise training to strengthen the back, arms, and legs to build endurance and stamina
  • Nutritional counseling to help in weight loss and building muscle 
Pulmonary rehabilitation can be done in a hospital or clinic setting or at home with guidance from a healthcare provider 21,22.

Treatment guidelines

The appropriate medical treatment depends on the stage and severity of COPD 23:
  • Stage 1 is treated with a short-acting bronchodilator (SABA)
  • Stage 2 is treated with a SABA + a long-acting bronchodilator (LABA) + pulmonary rehabilitation 
  • Stage 3 is treated with a SABA + LABA + pulmonary rehabilitation + inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) for acute exacerbations
  • Stage 4 is treated with SABA + LABA + rehabilitation + ICS + oxygen therapy + a possible lung volume reduction surgery or lung transplantation 
While the current standard of care treatments for COPD can provide benefits for many patients, they do have limitations and fall short in certain cases. This creates a need for new and innovative treatments for COPD, like stem cell therapy.

Meet The Doctors

Bringing years of experience in the emerging and innovative field of interventional and regenerative orthopedics to the Nashville, Tennessee area.

Dr. Ethan Kellum, M.D.

Dr. Hemal V. Mehta, M.D.

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