Umbilical cord cells to be used in breakthrough treatment for Covid-19

Blood derived from umbilical cord cells are being used to treat patients with serious forms of coronavirus.

In a world first, discovered by Australian researchers, patients at a Melbourne Hospital will be infused with the treatment to check its safety.

The trial will recruit up to 24 patients with moderate to severe pneumonia, which develops in serious cases of Covid-19, and it is expected to be finished before the end of the year.

The treatment could prevent the progression of pneumonia.

Speaking to the, study co-leader Professor Graham Jenkin, Monash University,  said: “It’s not going to cure coronavirus and its not like a vaccine that will prevent it, but it’s particularly designed for patients who progress from the very mld form [of the virus] to the very dangerous form that causes people to have to go to hospital.”

A good example of this kind of case is Prime Minister Boris Johnson who was hospitalised after his condition worsened. Mr Johnson made a full recovery, but this is not always the case, and Mr Jenkins comments that if patients are treated as soon as they arrive at hospital, before their condition progressed to Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS),  it could prevent deaths.

ARDS develops from cytokine stork syndrome, an over-reaction of the body’s immune system to the virus caused by localised over production of inflammatory factors.

The study’s co-leader is Dr Atul Malhotra, a clinician scientist at Monash Health and Monash University, who said when the virus enters the immune system it triggers the body’s immune response to attack the virus, resulting in localised inflammation. 

This can result in hyper-inflammation, causing serious harm to affected organs, causing multi-organ failure and, if untreated, the cytokine storm syndrome, which is usually fatal.

Increasing evidence suggests that cells from umbilical cord blood are anti-inflammatory, immunosuppressive and lodge in the lung—the primary site of the SARS CoV-2 infection – when given intravenously.

Mr Malhotra said: “Our aim in this COVID trial is to prevent the hyper immune reaction leading to a cytokine storm before it progresses to acute respiratory distress syndrome.”

This is the first trial to use cord blood-derived cells for Covid-19 related pneumonia.

stem cell preservation

BSc (Hons) Microbiology

Chief Executive Officer | Biovault Family

Biovault Family CEO, Kate Sneddon, joined Biovault in July 2009 and became Chief Executive Officer in 2016. As health industry professional her experience includes working as a microbiologist and leader at GSK for over 10 years. Her expertise in cord blood banking has been recognised in her awards, features in Parliamentary Review and Parents Guide to Cord Blood, as well as contributions to research with UCL and others.

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