Cell-based therapy to reduce mortality from COVID-19: Systematic review and meta-analysis of human studies on acute respiratory distress syndrome

Stem Cells Transl Med. 2020 Sep;9(9):1007-1022. doi: 10.1002/sctm.20-0146. Epub 2020 May 29.


Severe cases of COVID-19 infection, often leading to death, have been associated with variants of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Cell therapy with mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) is a potential treatment for COVID-19 ARDS based on preclinical and clinical studies supporting the concept that MSCs modulate the inflammatory and remodeling processes and restore alveolo-capillary barriers. The authors performed a systematic literature review and random-effects meta-analysis to determine the potential value of MSC therapy for treating COVID-19-infected patients with ARDS. Publications in all languages from 1990 to March 31, 2020 were reviewed, yielding 2691 studies, of which nine were included. MSCs were intravenously or intratracheally administered in 117 participants, who were followed for 14 days to 5 years. All MSCs were allogeneic from bone marrow, umbilical cord, menstrual blood, adipose tissue, or unreported sources. Combined mortality showed a favorable trend but did not reach statistical significance. No related serious adverse events were reported and mild adverse events resolved spontaneously. A trend was found of improved radiographic findings, pulmonary function (lung compliance, tidal volumes, PaO2 /FiO2 ratio, alveolo-capillary injury), and inflammatory biomarker levels. No comparisons were made between MSCs of different sources.

Keywords: COVID-19; acute respiratory distress syndrome; mesenchymal stromal cells; mortality; systematic review.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Betacoronavirus / isolation & purification
  • COVID-19
  • Cell- and Tissue-Based Therapy / methods*
  • Coronavirus Infections / mortality
  • Coronavirus Infections / therapy*
  • Coronavirus Infections / virology
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Lung / physiology
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cell Transplantation* / adverse effects
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / cytology
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / mortality
  • Pneumonia, Viral / therapy*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / virology
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / mortality
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / therapy*
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / virology
  • SARS-CoV-2


  • Cytokines