In mid-March, Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey announced the first coronavirus-linked death in the Northeast. Since then, there have been more than 16,000 virus-related deaths in the United States, and the toll grows by the hour.
But the health care network that runs the Hackensack hospital now has its eye on reaching another, more hopeful, milestone: finding a treatment for the disease caused by the virus.
As part of a newly approved federal trial, researchers at the network, Hackensack Meridian Health, are preparing to infuse patients fighting for life with antibody-rich blood plasma donated Wednesday by a neonatal doctor who was infected with the virus and recovered.
The hope is that the plasma will boost patients’ immune systems and help them combat the virus before their lungs are destroyed.
“The idea would be to try to prevent them from getting worse,” said Dr. Michele Donato, the chief of stem cell transplantation and cellular therapy at John Theurer Cancer Center, part of Hackensack University Medical Center.
The first infusion of plasma, from blood donated by the doctor, Benjamin C. Planer, was scheduled to start by Saturday, Dr. Donato said.