COVID-19 clinical trial using umbilical cord stem cells

A new clinical trial has been launched, investigating the potential treatment of COVID-19 symptoms with umbilical cord-derived MSCs (mesenchymal stem cells). The trial, which was given immediate authorisation by the FDA, will take place on 24 COVID-19 patients.

Led by an international team of scientists, the first step will be to test the safety and efficacy of infused umbilical cord-derived MSCs on the patients, to stop the life-threatening lung inflammation and respiratory distress associated with COVID-19.

MSCs were chosen because of their anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antiviral properties. As the principle investigator of the trial, Dr Camillo Ricordi, explains:

These are cells that can sense tissue injury and promote tissue repair and regeneration, so it’s a healing function.

Dr Ricordi emphasised how crucial their work could be in tackling the virus:

There is no time to waste…Patients who die from COVID-19 have a median time of just 10 days between first symptoms and death. In severe cases oxygen levels in the bloodstream drop, and the inability to breathe pushes patients toward their end very quickly; any intervention that might prevent that trajectory would be highly desirable.

The stem cell clinical trial will take place at the University of Miami Health System and Jackson Health System, USA. Alongside Dr Ricordi, numerous experts from around the world in will be collaborating; utilising their expertise in infectious diseases, cell-based products, pulmonary medicine and critical care.

The Cure Alliance – a non-profit group of scientists and innovators – will sponsor the trial and share protocol with academic institutions around the world, to encourage further testing and accelerate the road to a treatment. With such levels of academic and medical support, the results of this study are anticipated within the coming weeks.

The FDA had previously authorised clinical trials using umbilical cord-derived MSCs for the treatment of type 1 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease – both at the University of Miami.

What are MSCs?
MSCs (mesenchymal stem cells) are a type of specialist cell found in umbilical cord tissue, dental pulp and bone marrow. They have the ability to repair and replace damaged muscle, bone, fat and cartilage tissue throughout the human body. This amazing therapeutic ability make MSCs a promising source of treatment for a range of diseases and injuries.

MSCs are present in over 1,000 studies for degenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and motor neurone disease, as well as tissue damage such as liver failure, heart disease and burn healing. Umbilical cord tissue and dental pulp are rich sources of MSCs that are completely non-invasive to collect.