Stem cell treatment involves the intravenous injection of MSCs into the bloodstream.  |  Photo Credit: PTI

Scientists across the world are ramping up research into stem cell therapy as a potential solution to treat COVID-19. In March, researchers from Beijing You'an Hospital released the preliminary results of a trial that saw over a 100 coronavirus positive patients receive injections of mesenchymal stem cells to help stave off the infection.

Australia-based firm Mesoblast has also disclosed that it was evaluating the therapy as a measure against COVID-19. In the United States, the Biomedical Advanced Research Devleopment Authority has also reached out to bio-technology outfit, Athersys over MultiStem, its stem cell treatment.

Israeli pharmaceutical outfit, Pluristem Therapeutics has revealed positive results having tested it on seven critically ill COVID-19 patients, as it awaits approval for further clinical trials. And as recently as yesterday, it was reported that Bengaluru-based R&D firm, Stempeutics Research has contacted the Drug Controller of India (DCGI) over a license to begin trials on patients in India.

Stem cell treatment has been used in the past, particularly in the treatment of degenerative conditions including Alzheimer's and Type-1 diabetes. With COVID-19, complications arise when the virus' spike protein binds to receptors on the surface of a healthy cell. When the cells fuse, the virus infects the healthy cell. The specific receptors that the virus binds to are especially present in the lungs. What then follows is an aggressive immune response that, in turn causes, irreparable cellular damage.

Stem cell therapy involves the injection of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) capable of modulating and normalising the function of a body's immune system. The anti-inflammatory capacities of these cells have been known for years and MSCs have been used extensively in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and ulcerative colitis. These cells are abundant in umbilical cord tissue, which is often why people choose to store them after giving birth.

However, there have been criticisms of the way mesenchymal stem cells have come to be classified. The majority of cells in our body are tissue-specific cells that do not have the ability to turn into other cell types like mesenchymal stem cells. Despite this, many are still categorised as MSCs leading to unearned hype, and the undertaking of unproven stem-cell interventions.

Secondly, some scientists have also noted that the infusion of a large number of cells intravenously may lead to blockages in the lungs, or other organs, causing further complications.

The small sample size of patients in the trials conducted by the Chinese scientists also mean that definitive conclusions over the treatment's effectiveness cannot be drawn. The researchers reported the results of just seven patients, and despite all seven experiencing remarkable recoveries, larger clinical trials will certainly be required to validate their findings.

See the article here:

Researchers turn to stem cells in COVID-19 battle How does the treatment work and does it pose any risk? - Times Now

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