Bonus BioGroup, an Israeli company says a new drug it has developed can prevent lung damage in COVID-19 patients who are suffering both acute and life-threatening respiratory distress.
The company's CEO, Dr. Shai Meretzki told The Jerusalem Post, a preliminary study of the new drug, MesenCure, has been found to promote regeneration of diseased lung tissue, reduce inflammation, and help alleviate respiratory symptoms in animal testing.
Meretzki, showing an image of a lung treated with MesenCare, a healthy lung, and a sick lung, pointed out the treated lung "looks identical to the healthy lung – complete healing, complete prevention of damage to the lung."
The drug consists of activated mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) from healthy donors, and initial results show success subjecting them to various biological changes in cellular attributes.
Bonus BioGrouip has worked with MSCs for the past 10 years from its headquarters in Haifa, also developing a tissue-engineered bone graft based on MSCs.
But once the coronavirus epidemic began, the company started to investigate the possibility of using the cells to reduce the "cytokine storm" that occurs when inflammatory molecules called cytokines, rather than the virus itself, are produced.
The immune response can kill healthy lung tissue, often leading to death.
When the immune system secretes too many cytokines, a so-called "cytokine storm" can erupt. Such an excessive immune response ravages healthy lung tissue, leading to acute respiratory distress syndrome or failure and eventually death.
MSCs are cells "found in every one of us; they are responsible for damage control and a variety of day-to-day activities," according to Meretzki. He stressed the drug is not a vaccination and does not attack the coronavirus, but rather would be used to prevent severe lung damages.
Other companies are researching stem cell trials for COVID-19, including Israel's Pluristem Therapeutics' PLX cells therapy, which has already been cleared by the Food and Drug Administration for a Phase II study in severe COVID-19 cases complicated by acute respiratory distress syndrome.
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