Potential Treatment for Severe Coronavirus Cases
As COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, continues its sweep across the globe, Chinese scientists are still dealing with a significant number of infections. While many patients have recovered on their own, severe cases have been confirmed. Scientists in China are now studying the potential for stem cell therapy to treat the condition.
In all, four patients with severe COVID-19 cases have been treated with stem cells and have been discharged from the hospital after making a full recovery. The success here has convinced authorities to expand the clinical trial of the therapy.
Stem cells are the building blocks of the body and can transform into any other type of cell. They also help promote the formation of new blood vessels, and inhibit inflammation, one of the key factors with the coronavirus. It should be noted that stem cell therapy was also used in treating the H7N9 avian flu with similar results to those seen during this initial trial run treating COVID-19.
A new drug, developed by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, is based on stem cell therapy technology. Dubbed CAStem, it has been used in a number of animal experiments, where it showed significant promise. However, it has not yet been approved for use in humans by the nation’s National Medical Products Administration, although urgent observations and evaluations are in progress at this time.
There are many serious concerns about Chinese approach, starting with use of embryonic stem cells and technical issues of injecting stem cells right into the lung tissue. At the same time reports of umbilical cord blood stem cells are encouraging.
Though, the anti-inflammatory properties of stem cells are of particularly interest to scientists and healthcare professionals. In severe coronavirus cases, the primary symptom is an “inflammatory storm” that overwhelms the immune system. This causes damage to lung tissue, which impairs breathing. However, with stem cell therapy, inflammation may be slowed or even halted, and new cells may be created to heal damaged tissue.
Do no look for stem cell therapy to be widely available for COVID-19 treatments. The benefit is far from proven; rigorous trials are still needed to determine safety and effectiveness.