Cell-based therapies for coronavirus disease 2019: proper clinical investigations are essential

Cytotherapy. 2020 Nov;22(11):602-605. doi: 10.1016/j.jcyt.2020.04.089. Epub 2020 Apr 17.


The serious consequences of the global coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic have prompted a rapid global response to develop effective therapies that can lessen disease severity in infected patients. Cell-based approaches, primarily using mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs), have demonstrated a strong safety profile and possible efficacy in patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), but whether these therapies are effective for treating respiratory virus-induced ARDS is unknown. According to the World Health Organization International Clinical Trials Registry Platform and the National Institutes of Health ClinicalTrials.gov databases, 27 clinical investigations of MSC-based cell therapy approaches have begun in China since the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak, with a growing number of academic and industry trials elsewhere as well. Several recent published reports have suggested potential efficacy; however, the available data presented are either anecdotal or from incomplete, poorly controlled investigations. Therefore, although there may be a potential role for MSCs and other cell-based therapies in treatment of COVID-19, these need to be investigated in a rationally designed, controlled approach if safety and efficacy are to be demonstrated accurately. The authors urge that the field proceed by finding a balance between swift experimentation and communication of results and scientifically coherent generation and analysis of clinical data.

Keywords: COVID-19; MSCs; acute respiratory distress syndrome; cell therapy; coronavirus; mesenchymal stromal cells.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Betacoronavirus
  • COVID-19
  • Cell- and Tissue-Based Therapy / methods*
  • China
  • Coronavirus Infections / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cell Transplantation / methods*
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / cytology
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / therapy*
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / therapy*
  • SARS-CoV-2