Didn’t get a flu shot yet? Join this study
Last winter, the flu killed 80,000 Americans, the highest death toll in more than 40 years. Many had not been vaccinated, and those that were, particularly older adults, may not have gained enough protection.
Now, researches at six locations around the U.S., including Rockville, Md., are looking at a possible new way to boost the flu vaccine’s effectiveness by using stem cells.
Stem cells serve as kind of internal repair system in the body by developing into many different cell types to replenish other cells.
The study being conducted by Optimal Research uses mesenchymal stem cells, which are derived from adult bone marrow.
In addition to examining immune response in the flu study, other researchers are looking at using this type of stem cell to regenerate bone cells, develop insulin-producing cells for type 1 diabetes, and repairing damaged heart muscle following a heart attack with cardiac muscle cells. However, the FDA has not yet approved these and other stem cell treatments.
“The research is being conducted to see if stem cells are effective in improving immune response,” said Holly Hoefer, director of marketing and patient recruitment for Optimal Research. “We’re really looking to see if stem cells will improve and extend [a person’s] health and ability to fight disease.”
Qualifying for the study
To take part in the study, you must be between 65 and 90, and be in general good health. However, the study is seeking those who may be less robust than they once were, perhaps walking more slowly or less physically active. Hoefer said that tests at the first visit to the study will help determine who might fit in this category.
An important caveat: Those in the study cannot have gotten this season’s flu vaccine yet.
“While we know how important getting vaccine is, some people have put it off. Some [healthcare practitioners] think a later flu shot is efficacious, as the peak of flu cases is from January to April,” Hoefer said.
What the study entails
The first study visit will include a physical and tests, including an EKG, and walking and mental evaluations.
Those who are approved to join the study will return for an infusion of stem cells, which takes several hours. The stem cells are harvested and grown from adult-donor bone marrow at the life sciences company Longeveron in Miami.
A week later, participants will get the Fluzone high dose flu vaccine.
Currently, all participants in the study will get both the stem cells and the flu shot. In the future, a control group, which will get a sham transfusion containing no stem cells, may be added, Hoefer said.
Participants will make seven additional study visits over the course of a year, and answer questions about their health over the phone. Compensation up to $1,000 will be paid for participation in the study.
For more information, call (480) 295-3754 or see www.optimalsites.net/flustudy.