Major aim of healthcare system during ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is to decrease the death rate and ensure successful recovery of the patients. Due to unprecedented effort of medical scientists worldwide mechanisms of severe COVID-19 cases development and critically important targets for treatment of this disease were revealed. Surprisingly, results of multiple scientific studies showed that in severe cases not only direct toxic action of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 but also immune system of the patient involved in development of widespread damage of the lungs leading to acute respiratory distress syndrome and insufficient supply of the body with oxygen.
Immune system composed of many different cell types that are organized in one functional system due to complex regulatory mechanisms. These mechanisms include interactions of the damaged cells of the tissues with immune cells medicated by signaling molecules and interactions between different types of immune cells.
In those cases of COVID-19 that characterized by the absence or mild symptoms of the disease efficient regulation of immune cells activity leads to the clearance of the virus and successful recovery of the patient. However, in severe cases of COVID 19 that occur more often among elderly patients due to dysregulated immune response initial viral damage of the cells act as a trigger for release of excessive amount of inflammatory signaling molecules (cytokines) such as IL-6, IL-7, IL-2 TNF-alpha and other. This condition known as cytokine release syndrome or cytokine storm leads to acute self-damaging pulmonary inflammation with increased influx of the fluid from blood vessels into the lungs, pulmonary edema and decrease of air-exchange efficiency resulting in acute respiratory distress syndrome.
Thus, initial urgent search for anti-viral drugs efficient against coronavirus was complemented with necessity for immune-targeted treatment.
From this perspective, stem cells were highlighted by medical scientists as promising treatment approach for severe cases of COVID-19 for their remarkable immune-modulatory properties, ability to increase regeneration potential of the tissues and preferential targeting into the lungs after intravenous administration.
Due to low level expression of MHC molecules on their surface administered stem cells evade attack from the host immune system. At the same time stem cells
produce variety of signaling molecules that limit inflammation and support regeneration of the damaged tissues. Signaling molecules released by the stem cells include growth-factors, angiogenic factors and such anti-inflammatory cytokines as IL-10, TGF-beta, IL-1RA, IL-4, IDO, PGE2. Due to these signaling molecules and direct interactions with immune cells regulation of immune response is modulated from self-damaging action towards anti-inflammatory and regenerative activity of immune cells.
Furthermore, it was suggested that despite the lack of direct anti-viral activity, stem cells release extracellular vesicles that support anti-viral properties of lung epithelial cells. Another studies reported that stem cells facilitate alveolar fluid clearance and decrease of pulmonary edema.
Animal experiments modeling acute lung injury revealed significantly higher survival among those animals that received stem cell treatment in comparison with controls. This occurs due to decrease of inflammatory cytokine level and increase of regeneration potential of the lungs.
On the basis of the rationale for stem cell therapy in acute lung damage mediated by dysregulated immune response provided by multiple scientific studies stem cells were considered to be a promising treatment approach for severe COVID-19 cases.
It was reported that stem cells were successfully used for the treatment of 65-years-old woman with severe COVID-19. Upon administration to the hospital her clinical manifestations were: fever, caught, fatigue, hypertension and hypoxia. Standard anti-viral treatment failed to improve her condition. Several days later acute respiratory failure developed posing a threat for a life of the patient. In such critical situation stem cell therapy was used instead of anti-viral and glucocorticoid therapy because stem cells possess significant immune-modulatory properties, facilitate regeneration and preferentially settle in the lungs after intravenous administration.
This decision of the doctors appeared to be life-saving for the patient. Approximately 10 days after beginning of anti-COVID-19 stem cell therapy health condition of the woman greatly improved showing normal vital signs and results of laboratory tests.
Another study reported positive results of stem cell therapy that was used for 7 patients with COVID-19. Two patients suffered from mild symptoms of the disease, for sowed severe pathology and one patient was critically ill. All patients showed
following clinical manifestations: shortness of breath, low oxygen level in the blood, high fever, pneumonia. Administration of stem cells leads to considerable reduction of the symptoms and decrease of lung inflammation according to results of computer tomography of the chest.
Despite encouraging results stem cell therapy is limited to very few clinics because this method requires special technologies that are not widely available. Our clinic has unique combination of scientific background, own biotechnological department that ensure high quality of stem cell-products and necessary clinical experience. Our clinic offers preventive anti-COVID-19 stem cell treatment program aiming to reduce the risk of development of severe form of the disease in case of infection with coronavirus and post-COVID-19 stem cell treatment program aiming to reduce the risk of complications of this disease during post COVID-19 period.