A National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University (NYCU) research team has transferred the technology for its experimental stem cell therapy for pulmonary fibrosis to two biotech companies, the first step toward beginning clinical trials, it announced on Friday.

The team led by Fu Yu-show (), a professor in the universitys Institute of Anatomy and Cell Biology, first published details of its therapy, which involves transplanting stem cells collected from umbilical cord fluid into lungs affected by fibrosis, in the international medical journal Theranostics in 2019.

At a ceremony on Friday, Fu and her team said they have agreed to transfer the research to two local biotech firms, Fuhwasheng Regenerative Medicine Co and Taiwan Bio Theraputics Co, in preparation for domestic clinical trials.

Pulmonary fibrosis is a disease characterized by the progressive scarring and thickening of tissue in the lungs, which can be caused by factors such as smoking, air pollution, infection or aging, Fu said.

Because the scarring is permanent, and there are no medications to reverse the damage, treatment has typically focused on easing symptoms and improving quality of life, she said.

The team found that umbilical stem cells transplanted into the lungs of mice with the disease not only survived, but also secreted growth hormones capable of reducing inflammation, Fu said.

Aside from its anti-inflammatory effects, the therapy also promoted the degradation of collagen, a protein in scar tissue, and stimulated the regeneration of alveoli, the tiny sacs in the lungs responsible for the intake of oxygen, she said.

Mice that were given the therapy experienced higher blood oxygen saturation and lower respiratory rates, indicating deeper and less strained breathing, Fu said.

After publishing the results of the study, the team received inquiries from a number of pulmonary fibrosis patients and their families from around the world, leading them to find commercial partners that could help bring the treatment to market, she said.

NYCU president Lin Chi-Hung () said that Fridays event marked the universitys first technology transfer since National Yang-Ming University in Taipei and National Chiao Tung University in Hsinchu merged earlier this month.

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