University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler professors researching convalescent plasma treatment for COVID-19

UT Health Science Center looking into benefits of plasma from recovered COVID patients

TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Work is underway right now at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler on a study looking at the possible benefits and risks of convalescent plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients.

While it’s benefits are already promising, its effectiveness still needs to be proven. And East Texas COVID-19 patients will play a very important role in finding answers.

“We’re most excited about an NIH (National Institutes of Health) grant that we received,” said Dr. Julie Philley.

The center will receive more than $2 million in a grant allotment from the NIH for convalescent plasma research to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Convalescent plasma is plasma received from recovered COVID-19 patients who have developed antibodies in their blood to fight off the virus.

“And then you give that plasma of the recovered patient to a patient that it is ill with COVID,” Philley said. “In hopes that it will help spark their immune system to help their body recover too.”

The treatment is already being used on some of the most severe COVID-19 patients, but some very important questions remain unanswered.

“This study will answer the questions if convalescent plasma helps prevent worsening lung symptoms—or death—in hospitalized COVID-19 patients,” Philley said. ”There’s some hints that it may in fact work, but we’d like to answer that question, and that’s what this NIH grant will do.”

East Texans who meet criteria and agree to the clinical trial will receive the plasma. Doctors will then study their body’s response. Philley told KLTV that this isn’t the only treatment option they’re looking into at UTHSC.

“The health science center is actually involved in parts of research looking at vaccines, also looking at ways the body’s clotting system works and different types of immune cells to see how COVID affects the body,” Philley said.

Meaning it’s possible that a cure for COVID-19 could originate in East Texas.

“Hey, stranger things have happened,” Philley said. “We helped develop some of the early antibiotics for many things, and still study multiple infectious diseases related to the lungs. I wouldn’t put it past us to come up with the cure.”

Enrollment for the clinical trials started this week. Consent from the patient is required before moving forward.

“This is a major impact study to rapidly identify one possible treatment for COVID-19 and the mortality associated with the disease,” said UTHSCT President Dr. Kirk A. Calhoun. “We are one of just a few institutions asked to do detailed work on carefully selected convalescent plasma. The fact we are assembling a great team of academic physicians here in East Texas, in support of our new medical school, is allowing us to participate in this way.”

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