The novel coronavirus first emerged in December 2019, and since then, it rippled across 180 countries, affecting hundreds of thousands of people. Amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, many people are looking for answers. Scientists are racing to find a treatment that can help save lives. Now, a team of scientists has suggested that stem cell therapy can help fight the deadly infection.
The scientists from the University of North Texas Health Science Center joined forces to create a treatment that is effective for patients infected with the coronavirus. The lead author, Dr. Kunlin Jin, who is an expert about stem cells, and a team of international researchers, joined forces to determine if stem cell therapy can be used to treat COVID-19 patients.
When news of the coronavirus emerged from Wuhan, China, Kunlin Jin, PhD, and a team of international researchers quickly joined forces to fight the mysterious disease.
The team used the messaging app WeChat to talk and work with each other despite the distance. The team from the laboratory at HSC and experts in China. The team focused on stem cells as a tool to boost a person’s immune system to fight COVID-19 and not focusing on finding an antiviral drug to kill the virus. The therapy will harness the body’s immune system’s power for it to have the strength to ward off the infection.
“I am proud to be part of the team I work with to fight COVID-19. Our study showed that intravenous infusion of clinical-grade human mesenchymal stem cells is a safe and efficient approach for treating patients with COVID-19 pneumonia, including in elderly patients displaying severe pneumonia,” Dr. Jin said.
Stem cell therapy for infectious diseases
Previous studies have suggested that stem cell therapy can help fight viral infections. While the treatment is not a method to eradicate or cure coronavirus, there is evidence to support the concept that infected patients may be more likely to survive an infection. Their immune systems will be given a boost, strengthening it to be able to fight the virus.
Further, stem cells rejuvenate and regenerate cells in the body. They do this through many processes that involve reducing inflammation, secreting substances that protect cells, reducing cell death, providing antioxidant effects, and boosting immune system response.
Stem cells. Image Credit: Dimarion / Shutterstock
The experimental treatment involved injecting stem cells intravenously into the blood of seven patients in Beijing, China, who were critically ill. Three of the patients were given a placebo.
These patients tested positive for COVID-19. Seven patients who had stem cell therapy had been successfully treated and recovered from the disease. Within 14 days in the hospital, they were discharged. Of the patients who had the placebo, one died, the other two became critically ill, with the other one developing Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS).
The study titled, “Transplantation of ACE2-Mesenchymal Stem Cells Improves the Outcomes of Patients with COVID-19 Pneumonia”, will be published in the April 2020 issue of the journal Aging and Disease.
Urgent call for treatments
The coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on many countries, with some grappling with an exponential rise in cases. For instance, the United States reports the most number of cases, with 189,642 infections. Italy and Spain follow with 105,792 cases and 95,923 cases, respectively.
Italy reports the highest number of deaths, as its death toll reaches 12,428, as the global death toll surpasses 42,000.
Many scientists are working to determine a potential therapy for viral infection, while others race to develop vaccines in the hopes of protecting populations worldwide. The disease is often deadly to those who are above 60 years old, those with underlying health conditions, and those who are immunocompromised. Those who are younger may contract the virus but only develop mild to moderate illness.
The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) progresses to pneumonia and, eventually, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).