The COVID-19 pandemic has caused havoc over the last few months, affecting many parts of our lives. As scientists rush towards finding a cure, a new study suggests that stem cells may play an important role in treating patients with the disease.
The study tested the use of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) collected from umbilical cord blood and tissue. The research team found that the treatment was a safe and effective way to deal with the symptoms of coronavirus.
The researchers believed that MSCs would be an effective treatment for COVID-19 because of their immunomodulatory and regenerative properties.
When a person contracts COVID-19, the immune system becomes hyperactive, leading to an overproduction of immune cells and cytokines. This “inflammatory storm” causes excessive inflammation and the destruction of many essential cells.
A transfusion of mesenchymal stem cells has been found to prevent the excessive release of cytokines by the immune system. The stem cell’s regenerative properties also help to repair cellular damage caused by COVID-19.
By counteracting the cytokine storm associated with COVID-19, the MSCs can prevent lung tissue damage in the patient. The regenerative component helps to repair any tissue which is damaged. These factors dramatically reduce the risk of COVID-19 pneumonia and respiratory failure.
Mesenchymal stem cells also act remarkably quickly. Patients experienced significant improvements in pulmonary function and symptoms just two days after receiving a transfusion of MSCs.
Several other studies have tested the use of mesenchymal stem cells on COVID-19 patients and had similar results. In one case, a 65-year-old woman who was on a ventilator and showing evidence of liver damage recovered after receiving three MSC transplants.
The FDA has recognised the success of these studies and authorised the compassionate use of stem cells for patients with a poor prognosis. This includes the use of MSCs and cells taken from the placenta or umbilical cord.