Today, 8 patients are known to have been successfully cured of severe COVID-19 using placental mesenchymal stem cells. This pushes scientists to consider placental stem cells lacking ACE-2 receptor as a possible effective method of treating coronavirus pneumonia. At least 14 clinical trials, evaluating the efficacy of stem cells of different types in the treatment of COVID-19 have already been reported in China.
What are Mesenchymal Stem Cells?
Mesenchymal stem cells are a population of multipotent cells capable of differentiating into connective tissue derivatives, such as the heart, blood vessels, connective tissue matrix of the lungs, bones, blood vessels, cartilage, smooth muscles, etc. These cells can be obtained, in particular, from cord blood, umbilical cord and placenta.
What is the mechanism of therapeutic action of placental mesenchymal stem cells in COVID-19?
First of all, the mesenchymal stem cells of the placenta do not have on their surface the receptors to angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE-2), through which the coronavirus Sars-CoV-2 bounds to the cell, that is, these cells cannot be infected with the virus.
Mesenchymal stem cells are a powerful immunomodulator, they secrete many anti-inflammatory biologically active substances (cytokines) that reduce the inflammatory process in the lungs. Also mesenchymal stem cells secrete numerous growth factors that contribute to the recovery of not only the affected lung tissue but also other organs. Sars-CoV-2 is known to affect cells that contain the ACE-2 receptor, such as the lungs, heart, liver, kidneys, and blood vessels.
There were no side effects in any of the cases of intravenous mesenchymal stem cell administration.
Experience of the Institute of Cell Therapy
The Institute of Cell Therapy has considerable experience in working with mesenchymal stem cells of perinatal tissues (placenta, umbilical cord, umbilical cord blood), which during 12 years have been successfully used in Ukraine for treatment of the disorders of cardiovascular system, liver, musculoskeletal pathology and others in the framework of clinical trials under the auspices of the Coordination Center for Organ, Tissue and Cell Transplantation of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine.
Due to the exacerbation of the epidemiological situation associated with the spread of SARS-CoV-2 virus and the complexity of severe cases treatment, the Institute of Cell Therapy has developed a protocol for clinical trial “Treatment of coronavirus COVID-19 pneumonia (pathogen SARS-CoV-2) using cryopreserved allogeneic multipotent mesenchymal stem cells of the placenta and umbilical cord.”
Opportunities of the Institute of Cell Therapy for COVID-19 Treatment
Currently, about 300 units of cryopreserved mesenchymal stem cells isolated from the human placenta and umbilical cord are ready for use at the Cryobank of the Institute of Cell Therapy. Cell preparations are manufactured in accordance with international standards. Each drug contains 70 million cells, which is sufficient to treat an adult patient with COVID-19-induced pneumonia.
Preparations of cryopreserved allogeneic multipotent mesenchymal stromal cells of the human placenta are able to exhibit regenerative effects towards the damaged lung tissue, which manifests in the improvement of its functional activity, reducing inflammation and fibrosis due to immunosuppressant properties.
Scientific studies have emphasized that the mesenchymal stromal cells of the placenta can not be replaced by other drugs in the treatment of degenerative processes of the respiratory system.