How Are Coronavirus, Pregnancy, & Cord Blood Banking Linked?


Pregnant women have questions about COVID-19

Why Are Umbilical Cord Stem Cells Important?

Umbilical cord blood stem cells have long been used as an alternative treatment to other more standard therapies. In the past 30 years, since the first cord blood transplant took place, there have been over 40,000 cord blood transplants performed worldwide. As of today, the FDA has approved cord blood stem cells in the standardized treatment of nearly 80 diseases. Also, hundreds of clinical trials are taking place to explore the use of cord tissue stem cells in the treatment of several neurological and degenerative diseases.

What Are the COVID-19 Clinical Trials Involving Umbilical Stem Cells?

Umbilical cord tissue derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are being tested to determine if they can lessen or reverse severe pneumonia caused by COVID-19.

 Research has revealed that MSCs are largely safe and effective because of their ability to:

  •      exert strong anti-inflammatory and immune regulatory functions
  •      travel to damaged tissues
  •      promote the regeneration and repair of damaged tissues
  •      reduce tissue damage
 According to one such COVID-19 study, this kind of pneumonia is a respiratory infectious disease, characterized by fever, dry cough, and chest tightness, and caused by the infection of the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). In severe cases, there is rapid respiratory system failure. The novel coronavirus pneumonia is extremely contagious, and the disease progresses rapidly.

According to reports, MSCs have been observed to reduce the overproduction of immune cells caused by a reaction to the virus and reduce excessive levels of inflammatory substances, thereby regulating the immune system back to a normal condition.

Impacts on Pregnancy

Are Pregnant Women at Increased Risk for COVID-19? 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pregnant women may be at greater risk of viral respiratory infections, due to the changes that take place within their bodies. Based on what we know of similar related coronavirus infections [including severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV)] and other viral respiratory infections, such as influenza, pregnant women may have a higher risk of infection. However, formal research has not been published to confirm if this is, in fact, the case.

Are There Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes with COVID-19? 

The CDC verifies that research for pregnancy outcomes with COVID-19 has not been reported. However, there are known implications related to other coronaviruses [SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV] during pregnancy. For this reason, it is important to follow the CDC's preventive measures to protect yourself and the baby. High fevers during the first trimester of pregnancy can increase the risk of certain birth defects.

Can Pregnant Women with COVID-19 Pass the Virus to 
Their Baby? 

The virus is known to spread mainly by close contact with an infected person via air droplets by way of sneezing and coughing. In a limited recent case study of infants born to mothers with coronavirus, none of the infants tested positive for the virus responsible for COVID-19. According to a published report, nine pregnant women with coronavirus delivered babies with no observable consequence. The infected mothers in Dr. Zhang’s Lancet study were isolated from their infants. In addition, all nine women gave birth by cesarean section to minimize the newborns’ exposure to the virus. The virus was not detected in the cord blood, throat swabs, and amniotic fluid of the samples collected.

How Can Umbilical Stem Cells Play a Role in the Future of COVID-19?

The data concerning pregnancy cases with COVID-19 are low. However, as reported by the New York Times, Dr. Denise Jamieson, chair of gynecology and obstetrics at Emory University notes, “We do know that we’re going to have lots of pregnant women with coronavirus, just given the number of cases," and continues, “It’s going to be critical that surveillance systems collect information on pregnancy status.”

A new study published in a peer-reviewed journal found that MSC stem cell therapy could be effective in treating COVID-19. The study was led by Robert Chunhua Zhao, a professor from Shanghai University and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences & Peking Union Medical College and research team. The study looked at clinical outcomes of seven patients over the course of 14 days who were treated at MSC therapy at Beijing You'an Hospital. Their research found, "The pulmonary function and symptoms of all patients with COVID-19 pneumonia were significantly improved two days after MSCs transplantation. Among them, two moderate and one severe patient were recovered and discharged in 10 days after treatment."

Likewise, Dr. Li Honghui is involved in similar trials at Loudi Central Hospital. His findings suggest that stem cell injections can deliver significant results within as little as three days. In a report by Hunan Daily, he states, "We cannot stick to the rules, we must be bold and innovative." More research is needed to determine the direct impact these cells have on patient recovery, but early evidence is pointing to promising results.

Why Is it Important to Bank Umbilical Cord Stem Cells? 

As clinical trials progress and research continue to develop, umbilical stem cells may prove to be a fast and viable treatment option for similar cases. For over 30 years, Cryo-Cell has enabled families to have access to groundbreaking treatments by preserving cord blood and cord tissue at birth to provide a way for your child to have access to 100% genetically matched cells for themselves, and to provide a partial match for parents and blood-related siblings.

Stem cells found in cord blood have been at the forefront of our research efforts, in partnership with Duke Medical Center, in exploring their use in treating autism and cerebral palsy. Similarly, stem cells found in cord tissue may have answers as clinical trials have yet to reveal the full potential of these cells in the treatment of COVID-19 and other existing and unknown viruses, conditions, and diseases. As always, we will continue to ensure our families are educated about the importance of umbilical cord stem cell banking and keep them abreast of the most current research.

Last Updated on: 03/19/2020 by Amy Schmidt