Doctors use placenta cells in experimental treatment for COVID-19

By Texas Right to Life

Doctors in New Jersey are treating a 49-year-old man in critical condition from COVID-19 with an unlikely substance: cells from a placenta.  NJ.com reports that the experimental treatment is underway at Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck. 

Drs. Ravit Barkama and Thomas Birch explained to the news outlet that they hope the cells will aid the patient’s immune response and potentially reverse tissue damage in the man’s lungs.  Birch said, “We’re trying anything and everything that makes sense, that can be applied in a rational way.” 

Holy Name Medical Center is the first hospital in the United States to gain approval for the experimental treatment, which has been attempted in Israel.

Initial reports about the trial referred to the cells as stem cells, but NJ.com issued a correction that the cells were drawn from a human placenta but are not in fact stem cells.  The placenta cells were extracted following a live, healthy birth of a baby and shipped from Maryland frozen. After arrival in New Jersey, the cells were thawed and put in syringes for injection into the patient’s muscles.

Many people associate such innovative therapy with stem cells, especially the potential for healing tissue damage in the lungs.  For years, the anti-Life lobby has pushed for expanding deadly fetal stem cell research which ends the life of a preborn child in order to harvest stem cells for experimentation.  

As decades of research have shown, fetal stem cells have not yielded the results promised, but stem cells acquired through ethical means without ending human Life have led to life-saving medical advances.  Options like umbilical cord banking provide Pro-Life means of advancing stem cell research without endangering innocent human Life.

As doctors race to find effective treatment for the victims of the COVID-19 pandemic, cell therapy is one of the options being considered.  The emerging science of placenta cell treatment is another Pro-Life avenue that may offer life-saving results for critically ill patients. 

The doctors explained that the therapy holds particular hope for patients suffering from cytokine storm, a condition that afflicts some victims of COVID-19 in which the body’s immune system reacts so strongly to the illness that the immune response endangers the patient’s life.

According to the doctors at Holy Name Medical Center, “The placenta cells may potentially quiet down that response, bringing down dangerous inflammation.”  NJ.com adds, “The mechanism is not completely understood, but the cells may work similarly to how they protect a pregnancy from the mother’s own immune system, the doctors said.”

During pregnancy, the mother’s body does not reject the placenta.  Although doctors are not sure exactly why the mother’s immune system does not react to the placenta, they hope to use the placenta cells to curb the immune response in critically ill patients.  Once the cells are injected, the medical team closely monitors the patient but no further action is required. Barkama explained, “The process itself is very simple.  It’s the physiology around it that is very complicated.”

The Israeli biotech company Pluristem Therapeutics is currently running clinical trials through Holy Name Medical Center and other hospitals using placenta cell therapy to treat patients with chronic vascular problems.  As researchers try to understand COVID-19 and find viable treatment options, Pluristem Therapeutics began experimental treatment of critically ill COVID-19 patients in Haifa, Israel. 

The results of the treatment of the first six patients show potential with four of the six showing improved respiratory function at the one-week follow-up.

Although the abortion industry has attempted to profit from selling the bodies of babies killed in abortion for scientific experiment, many Pro-Life alternatives exist.  As the recent trial of placenta cells ethically derived without sacrificing human Life shows, pregnancy is a unique and remarkable condition that doctors and scientists still do not fully understand.  The most promising path forward in medical research is that which recognizes the Right to Life of all people, whether medically fragile or preborn.