Muscular dystrophy treatment showing promise with COVID-19 patients at Cedars-Sinai

A treatment for muscular dystrophy patients with heart failure can also help COVID-19 patients, Cedars-Sinai doctors have found. They hope the FDA will OK a larger study.
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Doctors at Cedars-Sinai are finding a treatment that has been used for muscular dystrophy patients with heart failure is also helping some COVID-19 patients recover.

They've had success helping a handful of COVID-19 patients get off ventilators and now they're hoping for FDA approval to perform a larger study.

The treatment relates to one of the effects COVID-19 can have on some patients - serious damage to the heart, lungs and other organs.

And in that path of destruction, the virus can cause dangerously high levels of inflammation.

One of those who benefited from the experimental treatment was Keith Miles.

The computer engineer and former bodybuilder had always made sure to stay in top shape

But then his wife Stacy got sick with COVID-19 in late March.

And then Keith did too.

Barely recovered herself, Stacy took Keith to Cedars-Sinai.

She didn't realize it at the time, but soon learned his oxygen levels were dangerously low. He was admitted on April 9 and soon had to go on a ventilator.

Inflammation was attacking his heart.

Keith was slipping away.

That's when Dr. Eduardo Marban and his colleagues decided to try a Hail Mary treatment.

They gave Keith intravenously administered cells grown from human heart tissues. The cells help dampen the body's overreaction to stimuli.

Marban, executive director of the Smidt Heart Institute, was using these cells to treat muscular dystrophy patients with heart failure.

They had additional doses available in the freezer for future studies. Once the COVID-19 pandemic struck, they realized those existing cells could be used for treatment.

The experimental therapeutic was given to six patients.

Marban says four of the six, who were critically ill and on ventilators, ended up recovering and being discharged. The other two are still alive but remain in the hospital.

Within a day of the infusion, Keith - who was in and out of delirium - inadvertently pulled out his ventilator tube.

The next step for Cedars Sinai researchers is to get FDA approval to do a larger double-blind study.

Marban says because it's a treatment that has already been used, albeit for a different condition, they want to find out if it can be used on a wider scale to treat seriously ill COVID-19 patients.

After his month-long ordeal, Keith is so grateful to be home.

"Basically it did save my life," Keith says. "And I am very thankful to the staff and to the doctors that worked on it."
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