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19 January 2021, 18:27

Belarus' COVID-19 research update: High hopes for stem cell therapy, vaccines

MINSK, 19 January (BelTA) – Director of the Institute of Biophysics and Cell Engineering of the National Academy of Sciences Andrei Goncharov spoke about Belarus' COVID-19 research at a round table session at the BelTA press center.

“The development of severe pneumonia in COVID-19 patients is associated with an overreaction of their own immune system. Stem cells can have an impact on this. In addition, they can help repair damaged tissues, including those of the lungs. Therefore, we decided to check if stem cells can help patients with the coronavirus infection. We injected stem cells intravenously into critically sick patients. Such studies are conducted by Minsk Municipal Hospital No. 10 in collaboration with Belarusian State Medical University. The research project was launched in late December; only five people have been treated this way so far,” Andrei Goncharov said.

According to him, all these patients had indications for mechanical ventilation. They were given stem cells once or twice (1 million per 1 kg of body weight). “One woman still needed mechanical ventilation, but she was taken off a ventilator the following day and discharged from hospital after a while. The remaining patients were not connected to mechanical ventilation, as their condition stabilized within 24 hours. These patients are all right. Of course, we cannot yet say that such treatment will work for everyone. In order to achieve a good result, it is very important to administer stem cells in time, while they can still be helpful,” the scientist said.

Belarusian researchers are also developing a vaccine against COVID-19. In addition to the Institute of Biophysics and Cell Engineering of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Research Center for Epidemiology and Microbiology, the Institute of Genetics and Cytology, and the Institute of Physiology of the National Academy of Sciences are involved in the work. “Everyone is doing their job. For example, the Institute of Genetics and Cytology will carry out full genome sequencing of the virus, and the Institute of Physiology will conduct research on animals. We are set to complete the work on time,” Andrei Goncharov said.

In addition, Belarusian scientists are studying cellular immunity in patients with COVID-19. “We have already identified several indicators suggesting with a high probability that a patient will develop a severe disease. When a patient is admitted to hospital, an immunogram can be done and certain conclusions can be made,” the director of the institute added.

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