Cell-based therapies for COVID-19: A living, systematic review

Medwave. 2020 Dec 17;20(11):e8079. doi: 10.5867/medwave.2020.11.8078.


Objective: This living, systematic review aims to provide a timely, rigorous, and continuously updated summary of the available evidence on the role of cell-based therapies in the treatment of patients with COVID-19.

Data sources: We conducted searches in PubMed/Medline, Embase, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), grey literature, and in a centralized repository in L·OVE (Living OVerview of Evidence). L·OVE is a platform that maps PICO questions to evidence from the Epistemonikos database. In response to the COVID-19 emergency, L·OVE was adapted to expand the range of evidence it covers and customized to group all COVID-19 evidence in one place. All the searches covered the period until 23 April 2020 (one day before submission).

Eligibility criteria for selecting studies and methods: We adapted an already published standard protocol for multiple parallel systematic reviews to the specificities of this question. We searched for randomized trials evaluating the effectiveness and safety of cell-based therapies versus placebo or no treatment in patients with COVID-19. Anticipating the lack of randomized trials directly addressing this question, we also searched for trials evaluating other coronavirus infections, such as MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV, and nonrandomized studies in COVID-19. Two reviewers independently screened each study for eligibility. A living, web-based version of this review will be openly available during the COVID-19 pandemic. We will resubmit this review to a peer-reviewed journal every time the conclusions change or whenever there are substantial updates.

Results: We screened 1 043 records, but no study was considered eligible. We identified 61 ongoing studies, including 39 randomized trials evaluating different types of cell-based therapies in COVID-19.

Conclusions: We did not find any studies that met our inclusion criteria, and hence there is no evidence to support or refute the use of cell-based therapies for treating patients with COVID-19. A substantial number of ongoing studies should provide valuable evidence to inform researchers and decision-makers in the near future.

Prospero registration number: CRD42020179711.

Keywords: cell-based therapies; coronavirus disease; coronavirus infections; mesenchymal stem cells; severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2; systematic review; COVID-19.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 / therapy*
  • Cell- and Tissue-Based Therapy*
  • Humans