The Latin word ‘corona’ means ‘crown’ because the virus looks like a crown under an electron microscope.
Globally, the scientific community is trying to use every weapon in its armory to suppress the global threat from the virus, using approaches that include vaccines, drugs, stem cells and even exosomes. In the recent months, there has been increased activity in the clinical trial sector using stem cells against COVID-19. Nearly all of the current stem cells trials are being undertaken in China.
While many approaches are being investigated, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are showing intriguing potential for the treatment of COVID-19.
MSCs are receiving notable attention because past studies have found the secretions from MSCs to be effective at treating inflammation and cytokine storms.
From early-stage studies, it appears that MSC may exert beneficial effects, potentially by improving the lung microenvironment, inhibiting immune system over-activation, protecting lung alveoli epithelial cells, promoting tissue repair, preventing pulmonary fibrosis, or improving lung function.
Already, Athersys has reported positive outcomes in other studies using MSCs in treating respiratory disease. Similarly, Mesoblast’s Remestemcel-L has proved itself to be effective in treating advanced respiratory distress.
Cynata Therapeutics is exploring the capacity of its Cymerus™ platform to treat COVID-19 patients with severe symptoms, including acute respiratory distress syndrome, sepsis and cytokine release syndrome.
Tianhe Stem Cell Biotechnologies and its division in China (Jinan Tianhe Stem Cell Biotechnology Co., Ltd.) have registered a clinical trial (NCT04299152) for evaluating its “Stem Cell Educator Therapy” against COVID-19.
Pluristem Therapeutics is exploring its PLX cell product candidate for treating respiratory and inflammatory complications caused by the novel Coronavirus infection.
Vitro Biopharma is positioning its scalable manufacturing platform to provide stem cell therapies for Coronavirus infections, working the government to present its its AlloRx™ stem cell therapy option.
Furthermore, Celularity is working with Sorrento Therapeutics to evaluate the capacity of its cryopreserved placental-derived Natural Killer cell therapy (CYNK-001) for the treatment and prevention of Coronavirus infections. CYNK-001 has an open IND application with the FDA in blood cancers and the company has submitted this IND application for its use against COVID-19.
Many other companies are also exploring the potential of living therapies to manage the global surge of Coronavirus infections.
Currently, ClinicalTrials.gov and the World Health Organization International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (WHO ICTRP) report a combined 29 trials exploring the potential of stem cells for treating COVID-19.
Interestingly, not all of the filed trials are being pursued. In recent weeks, five trials with Chinese Clinical Trial Register (“ChiCTR”) numbers and one trial from ClinicalTrials.gov (with a “National Clinical Trial”) number have been marked as “Cancelled by the Investigator.”
Four of the six withdrawn trials were submitted by the same Chinese company, Guangzhou Reborn Health Management Consultation Co., LTD.
Thus, there are 23 active stem cell trials for COVID-19, the vast majority of which utilize MSCs. 16 of the ongoing trials have Chinese Clinical Trial Register (“ChiCTR”) numbers and 7 have National Clinical Trial (NCT) numbers.
When all trial types are considered, there are over 400 studies worldwide exploring approaches to diagnosing, treating or managing COVID-19.