Ever since the novel coronavirus or COVID-19 was first reported in China’s Wuhan city, the virus has spread to more than 196 countries and territories around the world with 393,284 confirmed cases and 17,161 deaths so far. In India, the maximum number of cases have been reported in the state of Maharashtra. The number of coronavirus cases in the country rose to 519 including 10 deaths.
It is the need of the hour to find a solution for it. Clinical trials in China are already testing the efficacy of stem cell therapies for COVID-19. A recent clinical trial including seven COVID-19 patients showed that a stem cell product improved patient outcome. According to research published in the peer-reviewed journal Aging and Disease, mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) therapy could be effective in treating COVID-19.
Coronaviruses (CoV) belong to a large family of viruses leading to respiratory illnesses, such as common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). Earlier this year, a new strain of coronavirus was discovered, which was not previously identified in human beings, also known as the novel coronavirus (nCov). The symptoms of the infection are respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. More severe cases of COVID-19 can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, and kidney failure.
In recent years, scientific research has shown that MSCs have properties that may make them very useful to repair damaged tissues in the patients’ respiratory system and promote faster healing and recovery. Umbilical cord tissue is particularly rich in these cells, which is why many parents are choosing to store them at birth. MSCs can reduce the overproduction of immune cells caused by a reaction to the virus and reduce excessive levels of inflammatory substances, thus regulating the immune system.
Currently, many vaccines or drugs are being tested to deal with coronavirus. There is widespread fear and phobia among the population. Why not use your own defense system rather than searching for drugs to tackle the virus? MSCs are multi-potent cells that have been widely used for tissue regeneration and immunomodulation and can be a potential solution. The infusion of autologous and allogenic MSCs has been proven safe and effective in tissue repair and disease modulation. MSCs have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial properties; therefore, have the potential to control inflammatory conditions, possibly viral diseases, and may reduce mortality.
Another interesting therapeutic avenue is immunotherapy. Natural killer (NK) cells, a component of our innate immune system, play an important role in tackling malignancies as well as virally infected cells. These cells serve to contain viral infections while the adaptive immune response is generating antigen-specific cytotoxic T cells that can clear the infection. Thus, NK cell therapy can be safe and effective in the management of COVID-19.
Don’t forget to take precautions. Ensure that you take a warm bath after returning from outdoors, especially if have cold or cough. Avoid touching any objects in public places and wash your hands with soap and water regularly. Do not touch your face and do not go to crowded places. High doses of vitamins are recommended to boost the immunity.
We need to ensure control of person-to-person transmission of the infection. Therefore, stringent isolation/quarantine measures are important until complete recovery of an infected individual.
by Dr. Pradeep Mahajan, Regenerative Medicine Researcher