Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are multipotent cells that can differentiate into several cell types. They possess the capacity to modulate the immune response by regulating the activity of other immune cell types. MSCs are capable of decreasing pro-inflammatory reactions and enhancing lung tissue repair . They have previously demonstrated the ability to improve outcomes of bacterial and viral pneumonia in animals and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) in humans [2, 3].
A pilot clinical study in Beijing YouAn Hospital, China in 7 patients with COVID-19 pneumonia investigated whether MSC transplantation could improve the outcome. The study showed that MSCs have the potential to cure or significantly improve pulmonary function and ameliorate symptoms of all patients with COVID-19 enrolled in the study, including severe cases. MSCs increased the peripheral lymphocytes and suppressed overactivated cytokine-secreting immune cells in 3 to 6 days, while the regulatory cell population dramatically increased. The level of TNF-α was reported to have significantly decreased, while IL-10 increased in the MSC treatment group compared to the placebo control group. The gene expression profile showed that MSCs were free from COVID-19 infection. The study concluded that the intravenous transplantation of MSCs was safe and effective for treatment in patients with COVID-19 pneumonia, especially for patients in critically severe condition .
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- Matthay, M. A., Calfee, C. S., Zhuo, H., Thompson, B. T., Wilson, J. G., Levitt, J. E., … & Donahoe, M. P. (2019). Treatment with allogeneic mesenchymal stromal cells for moderate to severe acute respiratory distress syndrome (START study): a randomised phase 2a safety trial. The Lancet Respiratory Medicine, 7(2), 154-162.
- Yip, H. K., Fang, W. F., Li, Y. C., Lee, F. Y., Lee, C. H., Pei, S. N., … & Lee, M. S. (2020). Human Umbilical Cord-Derived Mesenchymal Stem Cells for Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome. Read Online: Critical Care Medicine| Society of Critical Care Medicine.
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