Since 2019, over 400 million people across the globe have been infected by SARS-CoV-2, the acute respiratory syndrome that causes COVID-19. Current treatments for COVID-19 work to decrease pain and mitigate negative side effects of infection. Recently, research on stem cell therapy has revealed the possibilities for mesenchymal stem cells to help heal and improve side effects of COVID-19, including post-acute COVID-19 syndrome. In the following article discuss is stem cell therapy a COVID-19 treatment option.
WHAT IS STEM CELL THERAPY?
Stem cell therapy involves the administration of stem cells to prevent or heal a disease or condition. The most popular form of stem cell therapy is the transplantation of blood stem cells to treat diseases which affect the blood or immune system. Stem cell therapy can be very useful in helping manage and mitigate the symptoms of long-term medical conditions such as arthritis, cancer, and various kidney diseases.
WHAT IS POST-ACUTE COVID-19 SYNDROME?
Post-acute COVID-19 is a syndrome characterized by the persistence of symptoms beyond four weeks after the onset of initial symptoms. Symptoms may include a cough, on and off fever, occasional weakness, and changes in smell or taste. Post-acute COVID-19 can persist for weeks or months after recovery from initial, acute illness.
STEM CELL THERAPY FOR POST-ACUTE COVID-19
Mesenchymal stem cells possess unique properties that makes them intrinsically attracted to inflammation in the body. Studies have shown them to be able to treat many ailments including arthritis, cancer, and kidney disease.
Mesenchymal stem cell therapy has been shown to improve symptoms of post-acute COVID-19 by decreasing inflammation and improving recovery times. Patients who receive stem cell therapy for post-acute COVID-19 can expect improved recovery times, fewer long-term complications of the disease, and a reduction in lingering, acute symptoms of COVID-19.
WHAT KIND OF STEM CELLS ARE MOST USEFUL IN TREATING POST-ACUTE COVID-19?
Adult mesenchymal stem cells derived from the umbilical cord have been found to be most useful in treating post-acute COVID-19 syndrome. Mesenchymal stem cells are adult, pluripotent stem cells that can differentiate into multiple different kinds of cells. These stem cells do not face possible rejection from the immune system.
Umbilical cord tissue-derived mesenchymal stem cells are sourced directly from the tissue of the umbilical cord. They have a higher proliferation rate than other types of mesenchymal stem cells. Unlike other types of mesenchymal stem cells, such as those derived from bone marrow and other tissues, the quality of umbilical cord tissue-derived mesenchymal stem cells is not hampered by the age of the donor. Additionally, stem cells taken from the umbilical cord are minimally invasive to the patient and are often easily accessible.
UMBILICAL CORD TISSUE-DERIVED STEM CELLS FOR POST-ACUTE COVID-19 SYNDROME
Umbilical cord blood contains mesenchymal stem cells which can renew themselves and differentiate into other cell types. Mesenchymal stem cells derived from the umbilical cord blood do not face potential rejection from the body, and have no negative side effects associated with them.
Studies have shown that although mesenchymal stem cells are present in every person, their quality and efficacy in treating diseases decreases with age. The quality of mesenchymal stem cells can also decrease if the cells are sourced from patients with certain autoimmune or degenerative conditions. Umbilical cord tissue-derived MSCs are sourced from tissue of the umbilical cord and from placenta blood following birth.
CAN STEM CELL THERAPY CURE COVID-19?
No research suggests that stem cell therapy can cure COVID-19 completely. However, stem cell therapy has been shown to alleviate symptoms and improve time of recovery. Data from a randomized control trial conducted at the University of Miami suggests that stem cell therapy reduces the chance of death from COVID-19 and improves unwanted long-term symptoms. In the trial, 24 patients hospitalized with severe COVID-19 were given either transfusions of umbilical-cord tissue derived stem cells or transfusions of a placebo. In patients who were administered the placebo, 37% had fully recovered from COVID-19 within a month. In comparison, 80% of the group given umbilical-cord tissue derived stem cells recovered within a month. This trial was only recently conducted and included only a small sample size, but it proves promising for future research.
Stem cell therapy involves the administration of stem cells to prevent or heal a disease or condition. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, there have been a number of studies conducted to determine the efficacy of stem cell treatment for healing COVID-19.
The use of umbilical cord-derived mesenchymal stem cells may be effective in alleviating symptoms of COVID-19, treating post-acute COVID-19, improving recovery time, and reducing mortality rate. However, further studies and examinations must be conducted to prove stem cell therapy as a consistently reliable treatment for COVID-19.