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Cord stem cell hope for severe COVID-19

Wednesday January 6th 2021

There is significant benefit from transfusing umbilical-cord derived stem cells to patients with severe COVID-19, US researchers reported yesterday.

The mesenchymal stem cells appear to safely reduce the mortality risk, and speed recovery for the most severely ill patients, halting the cytokine storm, researchers said.

Dr Camillo Ricordi and colleagues published their findings yesterday (5 January) in Stem Cells Translational Medicine.

They carried out a randomised controlled trial comparing mesenchymal stem cell infusion against placebo, in 24 patients hospitalised with severe acute respiratory distress syndrome due to COVID-19.

Two infusions were given a few days apart, with neither patient of doctor aware of which group they were in.

Dr Ricordi explains: "Two infusions of 100 million stem cells were delivered within three days, for a total of 200 million cells in each subject."

In the stem cell treated group, 91% survived longer than a month, compared with 42% in the placebo group. All of the patients below 85 years of age survived for at least a month.

Over half of patients given mesenchymal stem cells were able to leave hospital within two weeks, with more than 80% recovering by day 30, versus below 37% in the control group.

Dr Ricordi, from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, said: "The umbilical cord contains progenitor stem cells, or mesenchymal stem cells, that can be expanded and provide therapeutic doses for over 10,000 patients from a single umbilical cord."

Lead author, Dr Giacomo Lanzoni, adds: "Our results confirm the powerful anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory effect of these cells. They have clearly inhibited the cytokine storm, a hallmark of severe COVID-19.

"The results are critically important not only for COVID-19 but also for other diseases characterised by aberrant and hyperinflammatory immune responses, such as autoimmune Type 1 diabetes."

Lanzoni, G. et al. Umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cells for COVID-19 acute respiratory distress syndrome: A double-blind, phase 1/2a,randomized controlled trial. Stem Cells Translational Medicine 5 January 2021; doi: 10.1002/sctm.20-0472


Tags: Flu & Viruses | North America

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