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Critically Ill COVID-19 Patients Improve Significantly After Receiving Experimental Heart Cell Therapy

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 16 May 2020
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Image: Cardiosphere-derived cells (CDCs) (Photo courtesy of Cedars-Sinai)
Image: Cardiosphere-derived cells (CDCs) (Photo courtesy of Cedars-Sinai)
Critically ill COVID-19 (coronavirus) patients at Cedars-Sinai (New York, NY, USA) improved significantly after receiving an experimental therapeutic designed to reduce inflammation.

The therapeutic, known as CAP-1002, contains cardiosphere-derived cells (CDCs) that are grown in the laboratory from human heart tissues. Previous preclinical and clinical research showed that the CDCs, originally created by a process developed to treat heart failure, can help the whole body. The experimental treatment involved six COVID-19 patients who suffered from respiratory failure and required supplemental oxygen prior to receiving the cell therapy; five were on ventilators. Within four days after infusion with CAP-1002, four patients were able to breathe without respiratory support, and within less than three weeks, the four were well enough to be discharged from the hospital. None of the patients showed adverse effects from the infusions, and none died during the study period. By comparison, six patients died among a group of 34 comparable COVID-19 patients who were treated in Cedars-Sinai's intensive care unit around the same time but who did not receive the cell therapy.

Investigators have emphasized that the patient outcomes, while encouraging, are not sufficient to prove that CAP-1002 is safe and effective for treating COVID-19 as this was not a clinical trial with a control group. The team now plans to conduct a future clinical trial that would involve dividing a larger number of coronavirus patients into two groups: those who receive the therapy and a control who do not. The team would then compare the outcome for the two groups. The team believes that f the CDCs counteract immune overreaction in coronavirus patients, the cells potentially could help prevent or treat two other life-threatening conditions that often develop during the course of the disease: acute respiratory distress and inflammation of the heart muscle, known as myocarditis.

“Previous studies provided strong evidence that CDCs have intense benefits for the immune system and inflammation in a number of diseases. They accomplish this by secreting exosomes— nanoscale vesicles with a variety of active contents that travel widely throughout the body,” said Eduardo Marbán, MD, PhD, executive director, Smidt Heart Institute, who believes that this anti-inflammatory effect could be a critical boost for coronavirus patients.

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