Background: The present study compared the effects of antifibrotic medications, pirfenidone, and nintedanib, with transplantation of human umbilical mesenchymal stem cells (HUMSCs) in restoring rat pulmonary fibrosis (PF). Methods: A stable animal model was established via an intratracheal injection of 5 mg bleomycin (BLM). One single transplantation of 2.5× 107 HUMSCs or initiation of daily oral nintedanib/pirfenidone administration was performed on day 21 following BLM damage. Results: Pulmonary function examination revealed that BLM rats exhibited a significant decrease in blood oxygen saturation and an increase in respiratory rates. While no significant improvements were found in BLM rats receiving nintedanib or pirfenidone, those who transplanted with HUMSCs showed a statistical amelioration in blood oxygen saturation and significant alleviation in respiratory rates. Quantification results revealed that a significant reduction in alveolar space and marked increases in substantial cell infiltration and collagen deposition in the left lungs of BLM rats. No significant alteration was observed in BLM rats administered nintedanib or pirfenidone. However, BLM rats transplanted with HUMSCs had a significant recovery in alveolar space and noticeable decreases in cell infiltration and collagen deposition. The inflammatory cell numbers in the bronchoalveolar lavage was increased in the BLM group. While the rats treated with nintedanib or pirfenidone had a lower cell number than the BLM group, a higher cell number was found as compared with the Normal group. In rats transplanted with HUMSCs, the cell number did not differ from the Normal group. Conclusions: Transplantation of HUMSCs could effectively treat PF as opposed to the administration of anti-fibrotic drugs with nintedanib or pirfenidone with a significant better result in lung volume, pathological changes, lung function, and blood oxygen saturation.
- Human umbilical mesenchymal stem cells
- Pulmonary fibrosis