IN the early months of the pandemic in 2020, the mortality rate of patients with pneumonia due to Covid-19 in the intensive care unit (ICU) of Persahabatan Central Hospital in Jakarta, Indonesia, reached 87%.
“[T]his situation necessitated that clinicians fashion a breakthrough therapy to increase the survival of patients in the ICU,” write Professor Ismail Hadisoebroto Dilogo, M.D., Ph.D., and his colleagues in the journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine.
In their paper, Prof. Dilogo and his team, specialists in stem cell therapy at Cipto Mangu-nkusumo Central Hospital in Jakarta, describe a clinical trial of the treatment they devised.
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Between May 1 and October 10, 2020, the trial randomly assigned 40 patients with Covid-19 to receive either injections of umbilical cord stem cells in saline solution or injections of saline alone.
All the patients had severe pneumonia and were on ventilators in the ICU at four hospitals in Jakarta.
Out of the 20 patients who received injections of stem cells, 10 survived, while only 4 out of 20 patients survived in the control group.
The researchers report that among patients with underlying health conditions, those who received the treatment were 4.5 times as likely to survive compared with controls. There were no adverse events that the scientists could attribute to the treatment.
The leading cause of death in Covid-19 is acute respiratory distress syndrome, which may be due to an overreaction of the immune system or “cytokine storm” — although this remains controversial.
The type of stem cell that researchers used in the new trial, called a mesenchymal stromal cell or MSC, has shown promise for treating lung diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
MSCs appear to improve these conditions by toning down the immune system’s inflammatory responses.
The cells are found in several tissues in the body, including bone marrow and adipose tissue, but also the umbilical cordTrusted Source.