Holy Name Medical Center is trying to create more scenes of coronavirus-recovered patients heading home. Some are the result of receiving investigational drugs – pharmaceuticals not made for COVID-19 but known to attack the effects of the virus. The FDA greenlights such drugs for clinical trials or individual compassionate use.
Holy Name is the first in the nation to use the latest one: Pluristem. Cells from a placenta are injected into the arms and legs of a 49-year-old COVID-19 man on a ventilator. The working theory for the cells starts with the mother’s body not rejecting the fetus when giving birth.
“Probably, there’s something in the placenta, which might indeed be in the stromal cells, that calms down that immune reaction and tells the mother to not attack this embryo or fetus. So we’re actually using those properties of calm down the immune system, we’re using that now with COVID-19 trying to calm down that hyper-immune reaction that we’re seeing that a lot of patients have and that’s actually creating a lot of harm,” said Dr. Ravit Barkama, assistant vice president for clinical development at Holy Name Medical Center.
Barkama says the man is one of three critically ill patients without organ failure in the U.S. to receive the placenta cells for compassionate use.
“We are encouraged because the patients are doing better, but it’s still hard to say that it’s because of the cells. We need a significantly larger group of patients to be able to say that it’s effective,” Barkama