October 24, 2020

The Niche

Knoepfler lab stem cell blog

Will Trump get stem cells for COVID-19?

What a difference one day can make including in the types of questions I’m getting with this one rising to the top: should President Donald Trump get stem cells for his COVID-19?

Whether he should or not, will he get them?

This is more than a hypothetical as a surprising number of people in Trump’s orbit have promoted the idea of unproven stem cells more generally or specifically for COVID-19.

US Stem cell, Roger Stone, Trump, COVID-19
Trump confidant Roger Stone (middle right) with former leader of unproven stem cell clinic firm US Stem Cell (middle left), Kristin Comella. I was unable to identify the source of this photo. Comella posted a similar one on her Twitter though.

Roger Stone

For instance, Trump pal Roger Stone at some point reportedly was or perhaps still is a supporter of Florida’s US Stem Cell Inc.

This clinic firm is now at least temporarily not doing its fat stem cell injections after a federal district court decision put a permanent injunction on them. That is pending appeal. You can see a picture of Stone with the former leader of US Stem Cell, Kristin Comella. From the WaPo:

“Over the past year, it has hired a top law firm to defend against the lawsuit, and cultivated formidable allies with close ties to President Trump, including GOP operative Roger Stone and Newsmax chief executive Christopher Ruddy.

Kristin Comella, the company’s chief scientific officer, said she met late last year with a White House official, whom she declined to identify, to press the administration to get the FDA to back off. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.”

Rick Perry

Former Texas Governor and Trump Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry, has been promoting a Texas stem cell clinic called Celltex for around a decade. Celltex markets fat stem cells for a variety of conditions. Most recently, Perry was on Fox News promoting Celltex and its fat stem cells not only potentially for treatment of COVID-19 patients, but also for prevention.

Rudy Giuliani

Trump lawyer and defender Rudy Giuliani also has been promoting “stem cells” for COVID-19. Although Giuliani’s “stem cells” promoted via video on his website turned out to be placental natural killer (NK) cells from biotech Celularity, a firm whose leadership seems to me to be aligned with some conservative causes, Giuliani seems taken with stem cells. Beyond NK cells, Celularity also works on stem cells.

So what about Trump himself?

Those who are upbeat more generally about the idea of stem cells for COVID-19 including via testing it via rigorous clinical trials are focused almost entirely on treatment of already fairly ill patients.

Trump so far (as of October 2nd at least) only has mild symptoms and hopefully it’ll stay that way. It’s hard to imagine how infusions of someone else’s stem cells could be helpful at this point. Injections of NK cells also seem unlikely to benefit him. Getting his own fat stem cells also doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

You might not be shocked to hear me say that I don’t think that Trump should get unproven stem cell (or other cell) injections for COVID-19. Perhaps a more concrete question is whether he might be pitched on the idea by someone in his orbit and seriously consider it or pull the trigger.

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