Cells that cause the debilitating and ultimately fatal cystic fibrosis could be successfully replaced with healthy ones, new research has found.
University of Adelaide scientists have applied cell transplantation therapy, used in bone marrow transplants, to treat immunodeficiency disorders.
"Our research involves harvesting adult stem cells from the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients, correcting them with gene therapy, and then reintroducing those cells back into the patient," research fellow Nigel Farrow said on Thursday.
"The new transplanted adult stem cells pass on their healthy genes to their 'daughter cells' providing a constant means to replenish the airways with healthy cells and thereby combating the onset of cystic fibrosis airway disease."
Dr Farrow said the key to the process was an innovative method of eliminating the existing surface cells to create space for the introduction of new cells.
It has been successfully tested in mice.
Cystic fibrosis affects a person's lungs and digestive system causing a build-up of mucus that seriously impairs their breathing and significantly increases the chances of chest infections.
There is currently no cure and sufferers can expect to have a significantly shortened life span.
Dr Farrow said if the new transplantation technique can be perfected it could significantly improve the lives of those living with the disease and potentially combat the life-limiting illness.