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Using cell therapy to calm the immune system in critically ill patients


June 25, 2020

Dr. Duncan Stewart and colleagues will launch a randomized, controlled clinical trial in several centres across Canada to test MSCs in people with severe COVID-19.The immune system plays a crucial role in defending the body against COVID-19, but sometimes it can become overactivated, resulting in severe damage to the lungs and death. Previous studies have shown that mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) from donated bone marrow or umbilical cord blood may be able to dampen an overactive immune response and help repair this kind of lung damage. Very early studies from China suggest this approach might work for COVID-19 patients as well.

Drs. Duncan Stewart, Shane English, Dean Fergusson and colleagues will launch a randomized, controlled clinical trial in several centres across Canada to test MSCs in people with severe COVID-19.

“Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome is the major cause of severe illness and death in patients with COVID-19,” said Dr. Duncan Stewart, senior scientist and Executive Vice-President of Research at The Ottawa Hospital and professor at the University of Ottawa. “Previous studies have shown that mesenchymal stromal cells can help patients who develop this syndrome due to other infections. Our trial will test whether this approach can help COVID-19 patients as well.”

The Ottawa Hospital is a leading academic health, research and learning hospital proudly affiliated with the University of Ottawa. 

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