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A clinical trial was launched last year in Jakarta, Indonesia, after the COVID-19 occupancy rate in the city’s ICUs and mortality rate of critically ill COVID-19 pneumonia patients hit alarmingly high numbers. The study showed that treatment with non-altered stem cells from umbilical cord connective tissue doubled chances of survival in these patients, and increased survival more than fourfold in those with added chronic health conditions. 

40 patients intubated due to COVID-19-induced pneumonia were equally randomized in the double-blind, controlled study to receive intravenous infusions with and without the umbilical mesenchymal stromal cells. Along with the treatment being safe and well-tolerated, results showed a survival rate that was 2.5 times higher in those receiving the treatment, and 4.5 times higher in those who also had other chronic illnesses, according to Ismail Hadisoebroto Dilogo, professor of medicine at Cipto Mangunkusumo Central Hospital-Universitas Indonesia and research team member.

This study is the first to treat intubated, critically ill COVID-19 pneumonia patients with a non-genetically altered form of the stem cells. “Unlike other studies, our trial used stem cells obtained through explants from actual umbilical cord tissue and we did not manipulate them to exclude ACE2, a cellular protein thought to be an entry point for COVID-19,” Dilogo pointed out. 

He also added that this form of the stem cells modulates the immune system towards an anti-inflammatory immune state, potentially countering cytokine storm, wherein the body’s immune system is prompted by infection to flood the bloodstream with inflammatory proteins, causing acute respiratory distress in COVID-19 patients. 

“[…] this experimental treatment could potentially lead to an effective adjuvant therapy for COVID-19 patients in intensive care who do not respond to conventional supportive treatment,” Dilogo said.

(Source: Stem Cells Portal, 8th June 2021)