Researchers around the world have been scrambling to develop treatments for COVID-19 in recent months. The deadly and highly contagious virus has taken the lives of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide and negatively affected the health of many more.
A recent study, published in the journal Signal Transduction and Targeted Therapy, suggests that stem cells from the umbilical cord may play an important role in treating COVID-19. The phase 1 clinical trial looked at the safety and efficacy of mesenchymal stem cell therapy for treating the symptoms of the virus.
It was a parallel assigned controlled, non-randomised trial that involved 18 hospitalised participants with moderate to severe COVID-19 pulmonary disease.
Half of the patients were given an infusion of human umbilical cord-derived mesenchymal stem cells (UC-MSCs). The other half were placed in a control group that received conventional treatments.
The patients in the treatment group received three infusions of UC-MSCs (3 × 107 cells per infusion), which were given three days apart. The researchers then monitored the condition of all patients using a wide variety of metrics, including clinical symptoms, chest scans, cytokine dynamics, antibodies, and length of hospitalisation.
None of the patients experienced any serious side effects as a result of a stem cell transfusion. Two patients had mild facial and facial flushing. One patient in the treatment group required a ventilator during their hospitalisation. By contrast, four patients in the control group required ventilators. All patients eventually recovered and were discharged.
The next step will be phase 2/3 randomised, controlled, double-blinded trials with long-term patient follow-up. If the findings of subsequent trials are as positive as this initial trial, it may lead to a life-saving stem cell treatment for COVID-19 sufferers.