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University of Minnesota among first to open clinical trial into new COVID-19 treatment

They're treating a patient with lung failure using a new FDA-approved technique.

The University of Minnesota will become one of the first institutions in the United States to launch a clinical trial into a new kind of COVID-19 treatment.

The U of M announced Thursday it's treating a patient with COVID-19 and lung failure in a new trial that is aimed at halting the "intense inflammatory response of the body" in the sickest patients with COVID-19.

They will be using mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) to treat the inflammatory response. MSCs have been used to treat other inflammatory diseases and have been piloted to treat patients with COVID-19 in China and Italy.

Lab research suggests that MSCs can blunt the "cytokine storm," an intense inflammatory response in the body triggered by the virus which, if unchecked, can lead to extensive organ damage, most commonly lung failure.

"The inflammation seen in patients with severe COVID-19 can be devastating,” said Dr. David Ingbar, a critical care and pulmonary physician at the M Health Fairview University of Minnesota Medical Center (UMMC).

"The cytokine storm can rapidly lead to shock, massive fluid buildup in the tissues, and direct severe tissue injury, most often in the lungs."

“The study will determine the effect of MSCs on stopping the cytokine storm,” said John E. Wagner, MD, cancer researcher and director of the Institute for Cell, Gene and Immunotherapy at the University of Minnesota. "In order to determine the real benefit of MSCs in these very ill patients, patients will be randomized to receive three doses of MSC 48 hours apart or a placebo solution."

The multisite study will be conducted at UMMC and Bethesda Hospital, the latter of which was previously used as a dedicated COVID-19 facility during the initial outbreak.

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