Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine are trying to save the maximum number of patients who are significantly sickened by the virus and reduce the mortality rate.
Thanks to a sponsorship by Australian regenerative medicine company Mesoblast, the stem cell therapy trial is underway at several sites across the U.S., including in Maryland.
The therapy involves 300 people hospitalized with COVID-19 with moderate to severe acute respiratory distress syndrome.
“These are patients that are intubated, requiring great support for their lung function,” Dr. Sunjay Kaushal with the University of Maryland said.
COVID-19 patients often become very ill from an escalated immune response referred to as a cytokine storm, which creates high levels of inflammation that can be fatal. The experimental stem cell therapy called remestemcel-L, which has been developed for various inflammatory conditions like what is being seen with the coronavirus, aims to block or mitigate that response, Kaushal said.
“We’re trying to extrapolate from what they have been shown to be efficacious in trying to treat before and trying to use that type of therapy now for COVID-19 patients,” he said.
Once the final results from the trial are available, which could take between six and eight months, researchers hope to reach even more patients.
“We’re excited, we’ve seen some early signs that these cells may be efficacious,” Kaushal said.
Ultimately, their hope is to provide a new treatment for those suffering from the worst cases of COVID-19.
“We’re hoping we can save a lot of patients’ lives,” Kaushal said.