The role of mesenchymal stem cells in radiation-induced lung fibrosis

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Radiation therapy is one of the most important treatment modalities for thoracic tumors. Despite significant advances in radiation techniques, radiation-induced lung injury (RILI) still occurs in up to 30% of patients undergoing thoracic radiotherapy, and therefore remains the main dose-limiting obstacle. RILI is a potentially lethal clinical complication of radiotherapy that has 2 main stages: an acute stage defined as radiation pneumonitis, and a late stage defined as radiation-induced lung fibrosis. Patients who develop lung fibrosis have a reduced quality of life with progressive and irreversible organ malfunction. Currently, the most effective intervention for the treatment of lung fibrosis is lung transplantation, but the lack of available lungs and transplantation-related complications severely limits the success of this procedure. Over the last few decades, advances have been reported in the use of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) for lung tissue repair and regeneration. MSCs not only replace damaged lung epithelial cells but also promote tissue repair through the secretion of anti-inflammatory and anti-fibrotic factors. Here, we present an overview of MSC-based therapy for radiation-induced lung fibrosis, focusing in particular on the molecular mechanisms involved and describing the most recent preclinical and clinical studies carried out in the field.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3876
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2 2019


  • Lung fibrosis
  • Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs)
  • Radiotherapy
  • Regenerative medicine
  • Thoracic cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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