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Mesenchymal stem cells can treat the effects of COVID-19

The unknown yet six months ago, the SARS-CoV-2 virus has already caused more than 400,000 deaths worldwide and more than 800 in Ukraine. Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 causes acute COVID-19 disease with a predominant involvement of the bronchopulmonary system, but because the virus enters the cell through receptors for angiotensin-converting enzyme-2, it can also affect blood vessels, heart, kidneys, liver, digestive tract, the cells of which have an ACE-2 receptor.

Mesenchymal stem cells are considered as one of the promising treatments for COVID-19. Isolated from the placenta, umbilical cord, bone marrow, adipose tissue, mesenchymal stem cells have pronounced anti-inflammatory activity, which is why they have been used in clinical trials in the treatment of systemic autoimmune connective tissue diseases (rheumatoid arthritis, systemic sclerosis), multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease. The ability of mesenchymal stem cells to inhibit the release of anti-inflammatory cytokines is especially needed in coronavirus pneumonia, the severity of which is due to the so-called “cytokine storm”. The term “cytokine storm” means that own immunocompetent cells, activated by SARS-CoV-2 secrete excess biologically active substances that increase vascular permeability, promote the development of connective tissue in the lungs.

Preliminary results from dozens of clinical trials around the world in which mesenchymal stem cells have been used in the treatment of COVID-19 are encouraging and suggest cell therapy as one of the potential treatments for SARS-CoV-2 pneumonia. Positive effects of cell therapy were observed even in elderly patients and patients on artificial lung ventilation.

However, physicians note that stem cells may be effective not only in the treatment of acute COVID-19, but also in pulmonary fibrosis, which may develop in individuals after coronavirus pneumonia.

In Ukraine, the Institute of Cell Therapy has developed a protocol for the treatment of coronavirus pneumonia using mesenchymal stem cells of the placenta and umbilical cord.