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South Florida Doctors Starting Trials Of Stem Cell Treatment For Most Severe COVID-19 Cases

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Some South Florida doctors could be on the forefront of developing a stem cell treatment for the most severe coronavirus cases.

Later this week, Dr. Camillo Ricordi, the UM Miller School of Medicine and the Jackson Health System will begin FDA-approved clinical trials testing the effects of stem cells from umbilical cords on patients fighting COVID-19.

"One single umbilical cord from one single newborn can save or be used to treat over 10,000 patients," Dr. Ricordi said.

During a slide presentation, Dr. Ricordi explained that Mesenchymal stem cells are typically used for improving kidney function and treating diabetes.

But in China and Israel, the cells have been given to patients through an IV, showing remarkable improvements in the lungs of a person fighting the virus.

"If you see the image of the lung, the white gray area is the affected area of the lung. Within days, from February 2nd to February 9th, we had almost complete resolution," Dr. Ricordi said.

These cells have anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antiviral properties.

"These are cells that can sense tissue injury and promote tissue repair and regeneration, so it's a healing function," he explained.

Dr. Ricordi said the project is entirely funded through philanthropy and the Cure Alliance.

A total of 12 COVID-19 patients will be used in this stem cell study. Another 12 will be used as a control group receiving traditional treatments. The benefit of these trials is results come within days, not months or years.

"You mentioned you want to be careful with the hype. When people see this, can you explain if this is a treatment or a cure?" CBS4's Mike Cugno asked Dr. Ricordi.

"This is both. If it works as it's succeeded, it's a treatment for the severe cases in which the complications are taking over and can lead to death in a very rapid fashion," he responded.

Dr. Ricordi told Cugno they are getting requests from all over the world to collaborate on this project. He added that they're being proactive by getting other hospitals ready in case the project is successful.

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