SAN ANTONIO – The key to defeating and preventing COVID-19 may lie within our own cells, according to a San Antonio doctor who aims to prove that theory with several studies just recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
It’s a common question: How can stem cells be used to treat issues ranging from hair loss to rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s and now possibly COVID-19?
“Mesenchymal stem cells have a unique ability to transform into multiple different tissues. Stem cells are master signaling cells. They turn off inflammation and they turn on immune regulation,” said Dr. Derek Guillory, founder and medical director of Root Causes Medicine and the principal investigator for three different trials studying stem cells and COVID-19.
Guillory is working with Houston-based mesenchymal stem cells biotechnology company, Celltex.
Two of the studies already approved by the FDA will use a patient’s own stem cells that are harvested from fat cells in their stomach or hip. The stem cells are then grown and multiplied in a lab and re-injected into their body.
“It’s your own tissue, so there’s no chance of rejection. There’s no allergic reaction you can have,” Guillory said.
One study will test if those stem cells can prevent COVID-19. The second will determine if they can treat patients who already have the virus.
Guillory said stem cells have already successfully treated similar viruses that affect the lungs.
“There are a few trials from Asia that prove a very big benefit. Patients recover much more quickly and more completely,” he said.
Guillory will soon begin choosing patients for the trials.
The catch is, it takes weeks for harvested stem cells to multiply enough to be effective. So Guillory has to choose patients who have already banked their cells, which can cost thousands of dollars to do. But he hopes if the trials succeed, the cost will drop dramatically.
Guillory’s third study is pending FDA approval and involves injecting COVID-19 patients with another person’s stem cells.
“So if somebody is diagnosed with COVID-19 and they meet the criteria for the study, we can enroll them and give them treatment the next day. So, that’s the obvious benefit of using donor cells opposed to your own cells,” he explained.
Guillory said he is confident these studies will be successful and is thrilled to begin the clinical trials as early as the summer or fall.
Anyone interested in banking cells or taking part in these clinical trials, can visit the Celltex website.