Efficacy of Intravenous Infusions of Stem Cells in the Treatment of COVID-19 Patients
Stem cell therapy has emerged as a revolutionary treatment for diseases that were considered untreatable only a few years ago. Umbilical cord-derived mesenchymal stem cells (UCMSCs) have been shown to repair damaged liver, kidney, heart, pancreas, skin, cartilage, and cornea in animal models and several human trials. In addition to cellular replacement through regeneration, UCMSCs mediate through paracrine signaling pathways resulting in immune modulation. Clinical manifestations of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), are believed to arise from septic shock and cytokine storm that cause acute respiratory dysfunction and acute cardiac injury. There is presently no cure for the COVID-19 viral disease; however, multi-treatment strategies are being examined. During the past two months, four reports were published that suggest, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), owing to their powerful immunomodulatory ability, may prevent the cytokine storm and thus reduce the COVID-19 related morbidity. All studies reported that COVID-19 patients responded favorably to MSCs therapy. These reports, taken together with the previous successes of stem cell therapy in animal models, the investigators, a seven-institution consortium, propose to explore the efficacy of UCMSC treatment in COVID-19 patients at Jinnah hospital, Lahore. The investigators propose to administer UCMSCs in patients with acute pulmonary inflammation due to COVID-19 infection with moderate to severe symptoms. In the first cohort of 15 patients, UCMSCs will be administered with three intravenous infusions of 500,000 UCMSCs per Kg body weight each on days 1, 3, and 5. The second group of five patients serving as control will only receive standard treatment. During the 30-day post-infusion period, a battery of tests will be performed to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the UCMSCs treatment. In parallel, the investigators propose a comparative study to determine COVID-19 viral count by quantitative real-time PCR and through viral coat protein ELISA, developed in the investigator advisor lab (Dr. Tauseef Butt, Progenra Inc. Philadelphia, USA) with the ultimate objective to locally developing a rapid diagnostic assay.