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Stem Cell Infusions Investigated for Treatment of COVID-19 ARDS

FRIDAY, Jan. 15, 2021 -- Researchers are exploring the potential immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory effects of umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cell (UC-MSC) infusions for acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) in COVID-19, according to a study published online Jan. 5 in Stem Cells Translational Medicine.

Giacomo Lanzoni, Ph.D., from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, and colleagues determined safety and explored the efficacy of UC-MSC infusions in individuals with COVID-19 ARDS in a double-blind, phase 1/2a randomized controlled trial. Twenty-four individuals were randomly assigned to either UC-MSC treatment or control (12 to each group). The UC-MSC group received two intravenous infusions of UC-MSCs, and controls received two infusions of vehicle solution.

The researchers observed no difference between the groups in infusion-associated adverse events. No serious adverse events related to UC-MSC infusions were observed. In UC-MSC-treated individuals at day 6, there was a significant decrease noted in inflammatory cytokines. UC-MSC treatment was associated with significantly improved patient survival (91 versus 42 percent), serious adverse event-free survival, and time to recovery.

"Our results confirm the powerful anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory effect of UC-MSC. These cells have clearly inhibited the 'cytokine storm,' a hallmark of severe COVID-19," Lanzoni said in a statement. "The results are critically important not only for COVID-19 but also for other diseases characterized by aberrant and hyperinflammatory immune responses."

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