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Could Mesenchymal Stem Cells Treat Patients Severely Ill from COVID-19?

Jun 9, 2020 10:05:00 AM / by Stacy Matthews Branch, DVM, PhD

Medical team looking after infected patient in hospital, coronavirus concept._AdobeStock_331045992-1Clinical trials all over the world are showing positive results when treating COVID-19 patients suffering from ARDS with MSCs.

The worldwide race to develop effective therapies for complications from COVID-19 infection are ongoing. Patients with particularly severe responses are often diagnosed with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).

ARDS is a serious acute inflammatory response associated with the activation of massive numbers of leukocytes resulting in the release of inflammatory cytokines (cytokine storm). The cytokine release is the body’s attempt to aggressively react to the virus, but when this goes too far, organ damage results.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a number of clinical trials involving the use of mesenchymal stem cells to treat adverse responses to COVID-19.

For example, the Australian company, Mesoblast, received FDA approval for an Investigational New Drug (IND) application to treat patients with COVID-19−related ARDS using intravenous (IV) infusions of allogeneic mesenchymal stem cells (Remestemcel-L).

Scientists at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine also received FDA approval to conduct a small-scale clinical trial using mesenchymal stem cells for severe pulmonary responses to COVID-19 infection.

The basis of the stem cell approach is the cells’ immunomodulatory capacity. A clinical study to determine the efficacy of mesenchymal stem cells to treat patients with COVID-19−related ARDS was conducted as a collaboration with scientists from Shanghai University, University of North Texas Health Science Center, Beijing YouAn Hospital, and the First Affiliated Hospital of Zhengzhou University. In the study, seven patients (with mild or critical status) were given one IV infusion of mesenchymal stem cells.

The results showed that the patients began to recover within 2 days of infusion, and 3 recovered enough to be discharged from the hospital by 10 days after treatment. Clinical analysis showed an increase in peripheral lymphocytes, and the overactivated cytokine-secreting immune cells were undetectable within 3-6 days of treatment. No similar improvements were observed for the three additional patients that received the placebo.

The results of the study are promising, but given the low patient sample size, a larger study would be beneficial to better determine the efficacy of mesenchymal stem cell treatment for severe clinical responses to COVID-19.

HemaCare supplies quality bone marrow aspirate to help make treatment discoveries like these possible. Learn more about our other efforts to supply samples for critical COVID-19 research.

Resource: Are Mesenchymal Stem Cells a Promising Treatment for COVID-19?. (2020). Retrieved 15 May 2020, from

Topics: Bone Marrow, Stem Cells

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