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Therapeutic properties of stem cells in COVID-19

Acute infectious disease COVID-19 with a predominant involvement of the respiratory system, the prevalence of which is pandemic, has already taken more than 500,000 lives in 213 countries. More than 44,000 cases of COVID-19 have been registered in Ukraine, of which more than 19,000 have recovered and more than 1,000 have died.

There is still no specific treatment for COVID-19 in the world, symptomatic therapy, antiviral, anti-inflammatory and immunobiological drugs are used. At the beginning of the COVID-19 epidemic in China, several cases of effective treatment of coronavirus pneumonia with mesenchymal stem cells were recorded, which were observed in other countries too. Therefore, to date, more than 50 clinical trials have been registered in the International Register of Clinical Trials, which evaluate the effectiveness of cell therapy in the treatment of COVID-19. Mostly mesenchymal stem cells of the umbilical cord, adipose tissue are used. Clinical trials involving the administration of stem cells to patients with COVID-19 are being conducted in the United States, China, Brazil, Jordan, Pakistan, Iran, Mexico, Belarus, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Colombia, Germany, Spain, Denmark, Canada, Egypt. Italy.

The main pathological signs of COVID-19 are the development of the so-called acute respiratory distress syndrome (respiratory failure) due to severe pneumonia and the formation of hyaline membranes, ie connective tissue, which makes efficient gas exchange impossible.

The therapeutic effect of mesenchymal stem cells is to reduce lung infiltration by activated immunocompetent cells that secrete numerous pro-inflammatory substances (cytokines) and prevent pulmonary edema, regulation of T- and B-lymphocyte function. Mesenchymal stem cells also stimulate phagocytosis – “devouring” of microorganisms and dead cells by the immune cells, which helps cleanse the lungs, normalize the cytokine profile. Mesenchymal stem cells help restore the capillary network of the lungs, inhibit the growth of bacteria, increase the content of ATP, ie “energy” in the alveoli.

Therapeutic effects of mesenchymal stem cells in the treatment of pneumonia caused by SARS-CoV-2 virus can be summarized as:

  • Anti-inflammatory;
  • Antibacterial;
  • Antiviral;
  • Antiapoptic;
  • Stimulation of alveolar fluid cleansing;
  • Reducing the development of pulmonary fibrosis;
  • Stimulation of lung tissue regeneration.

In Ukraine, the Institute of Cell Therapy has developed a treatment protocol for COVID-19 using mesenchymal stem cells from the placenta and umbilical cord. Cell preparations are manufactured by the Ukraine’s first and only ISO-accredited cryobank of the Institute of Cell Therapy according to international standards.

Sources: clinicaltrials.gov, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7232924/, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7197031/ and data Cryobank Association.