TEANECK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – A New Jersey hospital is the first in the country to try a therapy on a coronavirus patient that utilizes cells from new moms.

Photos from inside Holy Name Medical Center’s ICU show a historic effort to fight the coronavirus: A 49-year-old patient is injected with placenta cells derived from a healthy live birth.

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Assistant Vice President of Clinical Development at the Institute for Clinical Research at Holy Name Medical Center Dr. Ravit Barkama, who watched the injections, explains.

“He was ventilated three weeks by Saturday,” Dr. Barkama said. “He just needs that additional boost to help him overcome some of these obstacles to be able to get extubated.”


Dr. Barkama explains that in COVID-19, the immune system can over-respond and attack the lungs, leading to respiratory failure. The theory is placenta cells can calm the inflammation.

“There are elements in the placenta which tell the mother or tell the mother’s system ‘hey, do not attack this entity here, let it grow,'” Dr. Barkama said. “Perhaps the same thing happens with COVID-19.”

For now, the FDA is granting its use on a patient-by-patient basis.

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The CEO of the Israel-based company behind it, Pluristem, says seven patients in Israel with respiratory failure showed progress one week after the injections. Three are in advanced stages of being weaned off ventilators.

“We believe at a certain point if you inject with cells can prevent them from going on ventilation,” said Yaky Yanay, Pluristem CEO and president.

The cells are injected 15 times into muscle in the arms and legs.

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Dr. Barkama says she believes it’s safe because the hospital was already participating in a global study with the company, using similar placenta cells on patients with vascular diseases.

“We always ask ourselves could we have done something different,” Dr. Barkama said.

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Dr. Barkama says there are signs of improvement in this COVID patient, so they are cautiously optimistic.