During this global pandemic, many scientists are pursuing various avenues for potential treatments of COVID-19. The Infectious Disease Research Institute (IDRI), in collaboration with Celularity Inc., will conduct a clinical trial with 100 patients using an immunotherapy for treatment of COVID-19.
The treatment will involve administering specialized immune cells called Natural Killer (NK) cells, which are a type of white blood cell that are a vital part of the immune system. Previously, these cells have been administered in early safety studies to treat patients with blood cancers. NK cells play an important role in fighting off viral infections. In initial patients with severe cases of COVID-19, low NK cell counts were observed.
The NK cells used in this study are derived from blood stem cells obtained from the placenta. They will be administered to patients diagnosed with a COVID-19 infection causing pneumonia.
In a press release, IDRI’s CEO Corey Casper talks in more detail about how the NK cells could help treat patients with COVID-19.
“The hypothesis is that administering NK cells to patients with moderate to severe COVID-19 will allow the immune cells find the sites of active viral infection, kill the virus, and induce a robust immune response that will help heal the damage and control the infection.”
In the same press release, Corey Casper also mentions the other applications this treatment could have.
“Beyond its promise as a critically needed treatment for COVID-19, the biology of NK cells indicates a possibility that this immunotherapy could be used as an off-the-shelf treatment for future pandemic infections.”