Clinical trials using mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) saw a huge increase from 2019 to 2020, nearly doubling in number. MSCs are cells that can differentiate into a variety of cell types, such as; bone cells, cartilage cells, muscle cells and fat cells, therefore feature across a number of different clinical trial types. MSCs are found in a number of different tissues, including umbilical cord tissue and dental pulp.
Despite the pandemic causing hardship across the world, MSC clinical trials focused on treating conditions associated with COVID-19, resulting in an unprecedented surge in number of clinical trials in 2020. These trials are trying to tackle respiratory conditions associated with COVID-19, resulting in the formation of 116 MSC trials in hopes of non-invasive treatment for the virus. This represents some 40% of all clinical trials using MSCs.
During the year of the COVID-19 outbreak it was recorded that there was a 29% increase in clinical trials using stem cells. The number of trials specifically using MSCs almost doubled compared to previous years. From looking into the data that was collected during that year, it was apparent that the increase in number was associated with treatment for pulmonary conditions. Pulmonary conditions are associated with breathing issues and problems with the lungs.
Overall, there were 161 cell therapy trials registered from February 2020 till December 2020 which aimed to fight the COVID-19 virus. The trials that took place were used to study the following; prophylactic treatment (used to prevent disease from occurring), interventions for patients with mild to severe COVID-19 symptoms and therapies for COVID-19 survivors who now have long term conditions due to the virus.
With clinical trials increasing due to COVID-19, it will be compelling to see what the data for the end of 2021 will bring and whether cell therapy will become routine in the treatment of the condition and its effects.