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Home / Science / Health /  Coronavirus: Stem cells offer a ray of hope in battle against covid-19

NEW DELHI : A new candidate has emerged in the race to find a cure for covid-19—stem-cells.

The therapeutic approach involves intravenous injection of mesenchymal stem-cells (MSC) from a human placenta into a covid-19 patient to boost the body’s immune response against the infection.

Key scientific groups worldwide, including those in China and the US, have been working to test the treatment. Some have reported promising results.

An Israeli pharmaceutical company, Pluristem Therapeutics, has tested it in seven critical hospitalized patients and found positive results. The company is now seeking approval to begin clinical trials.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has already approved clinical trials to study covid-19 patients who have been administered MSC derived from the placenta to prevent inflammation of lungs.

One 24-patient trial is set to begin soon in the US, the worst affected country with more than 780,000 coronavirus cases. The FDA has also shared a clinical protocol.

Indian scientists, too, are examining the effectiveness of the treatment and looking at the preliminary results from the trials abroad.

“There is indeed potential. However, unless we do some trials, we cannot how effective it is. It may be successful in some cases and not in others, but we have to see. As there is no established treatment for covid-19 yet, this approach may be worth trying," said senior cell-biologist Dr Mohan Wani, from the National Centre for Cell Science (NCCS) in Pune.

Stem-cells have been successful in treating degenerative diseases, especially Alzheimer’s, as well as Type-1 diabetes.

“The advantage that stem-cells have is that they have strong anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties, which can help strengthen our immune system. This is important in case of covid-19, where they could reduce inflammation of the lungs, which are the most affected," said Wani.

Stem-cell therapy could help build up regenerative cells in the lungs, which could protect the epithelial cells of the lungs, prevent lung damage and help patients recover, according to some scientists.

However, as the therapeutic approach is in its preliminary stages, it could be months before it is given approval for treatment.

There are also tight regulations in place to ensure that this approach does not pose any risk, because of the relative newness of stem-cell treatment.

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