The first-in-human study evaluates the safety and potential efficacy of natural killer cells to treat patients with moderate COVID-19 disease. The clinical trial involves infusions of CYNK-001, NK cells formulated from human placental stem cells donated after birth. When activated, these infused cells secrete cytokines — small soluble proteins that give instructions and mediate communication among immune and non-immune cells. Past studies have shown that they are toxic to solid tumor and blood cancer cells, as well as virally infected cells.
“The process is similar to giving a blood transfusion,” says Groysman, an associate professor of neurology at the UCI School of Medicine. “We’re boosting the number of NK cells in a person’s body so they can better fight off the COVID-19 infection.”
Groysman says all five patients who participated in the clinical trial felt better the day after their first dose, adding that “we observed a trend toward improvements in oxygenation, inflammatory markers, radiographic findings and time to viral clearance.”
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