GROUNDBREAKING TREATMENT FOR SEVERE COVID-19 USING STEM CELLS
The corona virus has affected our lives ever since its emergence in late 2019 which was later declared a pandemic in 2020. Every day there is some news of death/affliction from COVID – 19 in almost every part of this planet. With a lot of research focused on developing a vaccine has resulted in a few effective ones already in production in some countries including India, and are actively being used for mass immunization. However, the vaccines are of not much importance to those already suffering from the disease.
Therefore, as needed research is also taking place for developing an effective therapeutic regimen for treating the disease. In an effort in the last few months umbilical cord blood stem cells are being used for treating severe cases of COVID-19 in clinical trials.
The University of Miami Miller School of Medicine researchers led a unique ground breaking randomized controlled trial showing umbilical cord derived from mesenchymal stem cell infusions to safely reduce the risk of death and in hastening the time to recovery for the severest COVID-19 patients.
COVID-19 induces severe inflammation in the afflicted individuals. Because of their powerful anti-inflammatory and healing properties stem cells, immaterial of the source of origin either from umbilical cord blood or the placenta or any other source, are being applied for treating patients infected with COVID-19.
The recovery from COVID – 19 after stem cell treatment
During the month of March, 2020, umbilical cord stem cells were intravenously administered to seven COVID-19 patients. Symptoms of all patients significantly alleviated within two days of the treatment, and no side effects were recorded. Three of these patients were discharged within 10 days after stem cell treatment. Onward the study has been expanded to treat more than thirty patients, and the results showed significant improvement in their conditions after receiving the therapy.
The rationale of using mesenchymal stem cells for treating COVID – 19
Mesenchymal stem cells, the most often used type of stem cells, are also multipotent adult stem cells present in most human tissues including the umbilical cord. These cells can self-renew while dividing, and can differentiate into multiple types of tissues leading to a robust clinical research agenda in stem cell therapy.
It has been demonstrated that mesenchymal stem cells reduce the acute lung injury and inhibit the cell-mediated inflammatory responses induced by SARS-CoV-2. Furthermore, because these cells lack the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptor that SARS-CoV-2 uses for viral entry into cells, mesenchymal stem cells are resistant to infection.
Study of data on the use of stem cells in COVID-19
Data demonstrate that stem cells are safe and well tolerated in patients. Also, the stem cell treated patients had meaningful improvements in lung function, got off the ventilators faster than those not treated with stem cells. Stem cell treated patients experienced improved rate of survival as well.
The next step would be to study the effectiveness of stem cells in COVID-19 patients who become ill enough close to be intubated in order to determine if stem cell infusions could prevent the disease progression.
It is very likely that hyper-immune and hyper-inflammatory responses in autoimmune diseases might hold clue rooted reasons unknown about why some COVID-19 patients develop severe form of the disease while others do not.
In the month of May, 2020, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also approved a phase 1/2a trial for assessing the use of umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cells for treating severe COVID-19 patients.