How Stem Cells May Be Used to Fight COVID-19
Medical experts continue to research the long-term effects of COVID-19 and what it does to the body, as there are still many unknowns.
A handful of these experts are researching how stem cells may be used to fight COVID-19. The most promising theory of how stem cells — specifically, mesenchymal stem cells, which have the ability become several different types of tissues and are typically sourced from the umbilical cords of healthy newborn babies — could be used to help COVID-19 patients who develop acute respiratory distress syndrome.
How Treating ARDS with Stem Cells Could Help COVID-19 Patients
The sickest COVID-19 patients often end up having acute respiratory distress syndrome, or ARDS, due to the coronavirus’s effects on the lungs.
ARDS is a life-threatening lung injury that allows fluid to leak into the lungs, making breathing very difficult. When a person has difficulty breathing, less oxygen enters their body, which needs oxygen in order to properly function.
Because mesenchymal stem cells have the ability to become different types of tissues, it’s believed that they can become healthier lung tissue and help heal the injuries caused by ARDS, as well as reduce inflammation in cells that fight COVID-19.
Mesenchymal stem cells do not have a particular enzyme receptor that COVID-19 needs in order to enter cells, which means they are resistant to the virus’s infection unlike several other types of cells.
COVID-19 and Stem Cell Clinical Trials and Studies
There have been some promising results for using stem cells to treat COVID-19-induced ARDS, as well as several on-going studies.
A list of clinical trials from around the world can be found here.
Though a small number of studies and clinical trials have been completed (most are either recruiting or on-going), only two have published results:
1. Pilot Study
A pilot study in China treated 10 COVID-19 patients whose cases were categorized as critical, severe, or common. Seven of those patients — 1 critical, 4 severe, and 2 common — were given an intravenous mesenchymal stem cell transplant. The remaining 3 were given placebos. All 7 patients who received the treatment recovered while the 3 patients who were given placebos either worsened, developed ARDS, or remained stable.
2. Clinical Trial
A larger clinical trial was performed to determine if mesenchymal stem cells would be safe and effective for treating severe COVID-19 cases. Patients were divided into 2 groups at random: a standard treatment group and a group that would receive standard treatment and stem cell infusions.
Overall, the group that received stem cell infusions showed increasingly better signs of improvement compared to the group that received the standard treatments.
Learn More About Stem Cells at Memphis Regenerative Healthcare
The National Institute of Health’s COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines Panel currently recommends against the use of stem cells for treating COVID-19, with the exception of clinical trials.
Though Memphis Regenerative Healthcare is not currently offering stem cell therapy as a treatment for COVID-19, our medical staff has used stem cell therapies to benefit patients with chronic and acute pains and inflammation.