Rachel J. Kaye
Aug 1, 2020
OBJECTIVE There are as yet no effective strategies to treat the novel COVID-19 and to stem its symptoms, including ARDS. This review examines recent research studies in humans to determine whether mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) may be used effectively and safely to target potentially deadly lung damage that may follow infection. METHODS A literature search was conducted to find published manuscripts on the treatment of ARDS and COVID-19 symptoms, disease presentation, and available treatment regimens. Electronic data bases of scientific articles and records of printed documents of JAMA journals were searched to find research publications on MSC treatment of ARDS and COVID-19. Outcome variables included mortality over varying time periods, hospital days, days on ventilator, and biological factors. RESULTS Two randomized double-blind clinical trials, 2 pilot studies, and 2 case reports described MSC use to treat ARDS with specific focus on COVID-19 and lung symptoms of cytokine storm. The MSCs were well-tolerated across studies. No significant differences in treatment outcome were found in randomized double-blind trials; however, results of 1 pilot study and 1 case report showed that MSCs led to lung symptom resolution and survival in severely ill treatment patients. CONCLUSIONS There is little published research on disease and survival outcomes among patients suffering severe lung disease associated with ARDS and COVID-19, and studies available are limited by lack of consistency in design and numerous flaws and limitations. Comparisons across studies are difficult. Nevertheless, it is documented that 8 ARDS patients with COVID-19 experienced symptom recovery and survival subsequent to MSC administration. MSCs are potentially life-saving treatment approaches for some patients who exhibit severe lung distress and have not responded to standard treatments. This is an obviously exciting research and treatment option for COVID-19 and other life-threatening diseases.