Japanese drugmaker Rohto Pharmaceutical Co. said Thursday it plans to launch a clinical trial using stem cells to develop a treatment for severe cases of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

The Osaka-based company said the trial will use mesenchymal stem cells created from human adipose tissue and the clinical test with stem cells will be the first of its kind in Japan.

Rohto plans to examine the efficacy and safety of the treatment after administering stem cells intravenously. It is scheduled to unveil the details of the test at a press conference on June 23.

The company said it will soon apply for the commencement of the clinical trial to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

The drugmaker said the safety of mesenchymal stem cells has been confirmed in clinical tests in the past to treat liver cirrhosis and heart failure.

Supplied electron micrograph shows the new pneumonia-causing coronavirus. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)(Kyodo)

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