A new study suggests umbilical cord stem cells found in the cord of new born babies implanted into Covid patients could improve survival chances.
The study was carried out in the USA by scientists at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine where researchers have reported a 91 per cent survival rate in seriously ill patients given umbilical cord blood stem cells, compared to 42 per cent in a group that did not receive the treatment.
All of the patients aged under 85 who were treated with mesenchymal umbilical cord stem cells were alive a month after treatment. They were all suffering from acute respiratory distress syyndrome. There were also no reports of serious adverse reactions.
The study was published in January’s Stem Cells Translational Medicine Journal.
The key findings of the study are:
The study focused on 24 patients at University of Miami Tower or Jackson Memorial Hospital with COVID-19. They had all developed severe acute distress syndrome.
It was a double blind study which means the doctors and patients did not know who was given the treatment.
Each patient received two treatments, given three days apart, of either 1- million mesenchymal stem cells derived from the umbilical cords or a placebo.
There were no infusion-related serious side effects reported.
Recovery time was faster among those who had received the stem cells. More than half of those patients treated with mesenchymal stem cells recovered and were home within two weeks of their last treatment.
80 per cent of the treatment group recovered by day 30. Less than 37 per cent in the control group recovered in the same time.
Each umbilical cord contains enough stem cells to treat 10,000 patients.
Researchers say the treatment appears to be safe. They also believe the findings could lead to treatments for type 1 diabetes.
Dr Camillo Ricordi, director of the Diabetes Research Institute (DRI) and Cell Transplant Centre at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine said:
“It was a double-blind study. Doctors and patients didn’t know what was infused.
“Two infusions of 100 million stem cells were delivered within three days, for a total of 200 million cells in each subject in the treatment group.
“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.
“It’s a unique resource of cells that are under investigation for their possible use in cell therapy applications, anytime you have to modulate immune response or inflammatory response.”
Giacomo Lanzoni, lead author of the paper and assistant research professor at the Diabetes Research Institute, said the findings were “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”.
He added: “If we could infuse these cells at the onset of type 1 diabetes, we might be able to block the progression of autoimmunity in newly diagnosed subjects, and progression of complications in patients affected by the disease long-term.”
What happens now?
According to UM’s researchers, the next step is to study stem cells in COVID-19 patients who have not yet become severely ill but are at risk of having to be intubated to determine if the treatment prevents disease progression.
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Giacomo Lanzoni, Elina Linetsky, Diego Correa et at Umbilical cord mesenchymal cells for COVID-19 acute respiratory distress syndrome: A double-blind, phase 1/2a, randomised controlled trial Stem Cells Transitional Medicine at
BSc (Hons) Microbiology
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.