A growing number of scientists 1 2 postulate that hyper-inflammation is driving the severity of the COVID-19 disease. Members of the Institute of Immunology of Hefei in China showed that the immune response to the virus infection is such that a high level of Cytokines and inflammatory cells are produced. Inflammatory monocytes and aberrant Th1 cells enter the pulmonary circulation and cause immune damage to the lung, functional disability and quick mortality.
Approaches like using corticosteroids or Janus Kinase inhibitors which are usually considered in case of hyper-inflammation are inadvisable for patients with COVID-19 as they would lead to broad immunosuppression and therefore leave the viral load free to multiply.
The key to help patients with hyper inflammation in their lungs while fighting an aggressive viral infection like in COVID-19 is to provide an efficient immune regulation where the inflammatory response is reduced while killer cells are still produced in an appropriate amount - this is what pluripotent stem cells provide.
Based on our studies, but also on published data 3, we can state that pluripotent stem cells have an immune regulatory effect when exposed to hyper inflammation. They not only suppress the proliferation of CD4+ cells but they also suppress the secretion of various cytokines such as IL-2, IL-12, IFN-γ, TNF-α, IL-4, IL-5, IL-1β, and IL-10 which are involved in hyper-inflammation. They will, however, not change the levels of TGF-β or IDO which are involved in regulating the immune cells.
Pluripotent stem cells have also been used successfully in restoring lung function in patients with mild or severe COPD. Noticeable improvement is recorded within one week of daily treatment.
Based on our understanding of the inflammatory process involved in advanced stages of COVID-19 and based on our knowledge on how pluripotent embryonic stem cells are able to effectively reduce inflammatory storm without lowering the immune capacity, we believe that our pluripotent stem cells could help patients whose lung functions are declining rapidly due to the COVID-19 inflammatory storm.