Coronavirus Thursday update: UMN announces new stem cell treatment – TwinCities.com-Pioneer Press

Doctors at the University of Minnesota are the first in the U.S. to treat a critical COVID-19 patient suffering from lung failure using stem cells.

A Food and Drug Administration-approved study will examine a new treatment using mesenchymal stem cells to intervene when a COVID-19 patients immune system becomes overactive and can lead to organ damage and often lung failure. This cytokine storm has been one of the more perplexing and fatal complications of a coronavirus infection.

The inflammation seen in patients with severe COVID-19 can be devastating, Dr. David Ingbar, a critical care and pulmonary physician at the M Health Fairview University of Minnesota Medical Center, said in a statement. The cytokine storm can rapidly lead to shock, massive fluid buildup in the tissues, and direct severe tissue injury, most often in the lungs.

A team of researchers at the university developed the treatment and are leading a study of its effectiveness with other clinicians around the country. Mesenchymal stem cells have been used successfully with other inflammatory conditions including in COVID-19 patients in Italy and China.

Researchers hope the stem cells will slow the cytokine storm and protect lung tissue from damage.

In order to determine the real benefit of MSCs in these very ill patients, patients will be randomized to receive three doses of MSC 48 hours apart or a placebo solution, said John E. Wagner, MD, cancer researcher and director of the Institute for Cell, Gene and Immunotherapy at the University of Minnesota.

The cells being used in this treatment were produced at the universitys molecular and cellular therapeutics center which develops materials such as cells, tissues, antibodies and proteins to be used in clinical trials.

The new treatment being studied at the University of Minnesota was announced as state health officials recorded seven new COVID-19 fatalities on Thursday. Those whose deaths were reported ranged in age from their 40s to their 90s.

The states death toll has reached 1,685 people with another 46 fatalities suspected to have been caused by COVID-19, but the patient did not have a positive coronavirus test.

With 697 new cases announced Thursday, Minnesota now has 62,993 laboratory-confirmed infections with cases in all 87 counties. Most patients are in the Twin Cities metro, but rural counties with meat processing facilities have the most cases per capita.

Health officials reported the results of 15,271 tests Thursday, a marked increase from earlier this week when the number of test results was lower than average.

Minnesota has screened 1.2 million samples from 963,096 patients since local testing started in March. The test positivity rate stands at about 5.3 percent.

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Coronavirus Thursday update: UMN announces new stem cell treatment – TwinCities.com-Pioneer Press