HOUSTON – For many, the COVID-19 pandemic is a learn as you go situation. Experts are trying all sorts of experimental treatments to try and help COVID-19 patients recover. Now they are hoping stem cells may play a role.

Stem cell treatments are speculated to be a healing miracle since these cells can repair diseased cells. As doctors study the Novel Coronavirus, they’re hoping stem cells might help reverse the deadliest complications such as Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome or ARDS.

“That’s something that occurs after the trauma of any type – pneumonia’s of any type, trauma, lung injury, inhalation injuries where you inhale smoke,” explains Dr. Charles Cox, UTHealth/Memorial Hermann. “Big picture we say you have a 50% mortality if you have established ARDS.”

With ARDS, the lungs fill up with fluid and cannot supply oxygen to the body. UT Health Dr. Charles Cox is hoping stem cells can help. The first COVID-19 patient with ARDS is now taking part in a UTHealth Stem Cell Therapy Study. The procedure took place on April 16, 2020, at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center.

“We wouldn’t anticipate seeing a substantial turn around in terms of lung function for at least 72, 96 hours,” explains Dr. Cox. “A good rule of thumb is you are probably not going to better quicker than you got sick.”

A total of 120 patients will be enrolled in the national, multisite trial, which is