According to the latest statistics, only 60% of the patients with COVID-19 admitted to an intensive care unit will survive. The other 40% succumb to the virus, leaving behind devastated families and friends.
The research team is being led by Dr. Duncan Stewart of Ottawa Hospital Research Institute. They are running a new trial which assesses the use of umbilical cord blood for severe COVID-19.
The trial is going to assess if cord blood stem cells can modulate the immune system response of COVID patients. It is an over-active immune response which attacks the patient’s lungs and makes it difficult for them to breathe.
The researchers are using Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs), which are found in cord blood. They believe that the immunomodulatory action of stem cells will prevent the immune system from going haywire and triggering massive inflammation.
The final results of this trial are yet to come, but the findings from similar studies are very promising. Several observational studies have found that MSCs are very effective at reducing Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARs) in patients with COVID-19.
The Canadian research team has already tested MSCs on 11 patients. They discovered that the treatment was well tolerated. As Dr. Duncan Stewart wrote: “The results are encouraging, they definitely support moving forward into a larger randomized trial,” he continued “This is a population that has extremely poor outcomes, so anything that can reduce the severity of the disease and improve survival and recovery is really, really important.”
Another team, from McGill University, plans to test another MSC product derived from umbilical cord blood. The product, produced by a Swedish company, will hopefully achieve the same goal — moderating the activity of the immune system so it does not damage lung capacity.