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BACKGROUND: Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is a devastating disorder. Despite enormous efforts in clinical research, effective treatment options are lacking, and mortality rates remain unacceptably high. OBJECTIVES: A male patient with severe ARDS showed no clinical improvement with conventional therapies. Hence, an emergent experimental intervention was performed. METHODS: We performed intratracheal administration of autologous peripheral blood-derived mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and erythropoietin (EPO). RESULTS: We found that after 2 days of initial PBMC/EPO application, lung function improved and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) support was reduced. Bronchoscopy and serum inflammatory markers revealed reduced inflammation. Additionally, serum concentration of miR-449a, b, c and miR-34a, a transient upregulation of E-cadherin and associated chromatin marks in PBMCs indicated airway epithelial differentiation. Extracellular vesicles from PBMCs demonstrated anti-inflammatory capacity in a TNF-α-mediated nuclear factor-x03BA;B in vitro assay. Despite improving respiratory function, the patient died of multisystem organ failure on day 38 of ECMO treatment. CONCLUSIONS: This case report provides initial encouraging evidence to use locally instilled PBMC/EPO for treatment of severe refractory ARDS. The observed clinical improvement may partially be due to the anti-inflammatory effects of PBMC/EPO to promote tissue regeneration. Further studies are needed for more in-depth understanding of the underlying mechanisms of in vivo regeneration.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





481 - 492


Cadherins, Cytokines, Down-Regulation, Erythropoietin, Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation, Fatal Outcome, Humans, Leukocytes, Mononuclear, Male, MicroRNAs, Multiple Organ Failure, Respiratory Distress Syndrome, Adult, Snail Family Transcription Factors, Transcription Factors, Transplantation, Autologous, Up-Regulation, Young Adult