Mesenchymal Stem Cells in COVID-19

A Journey From Bench to Bedside

Kamal Kant Sahu, MD; Ahmad Daniyal Siddiqui, MD; Jan Cerny, MD, PhD


Lab Med. 2021;52(1):24-35. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a major setback in both the health and economic sectors across the globe. The scale of the problem is enormous because we still do not have any specific anti-SARS-CoV-2 antiviral agent or vaccine. The human immune system has never been exposed to this novel virus, so the viral interactions with the human immune system are completely naive. New approaches are being studied at various levels, including animal in vitro models and human-based studies, to contain the COVID-19 pandemic as soon as possible. Many drugs are being tested for repurposing, but so far only remdesivir has shown some positive benefits based on preliminary reports, but these results also need further confirmation via ongoing trials. Otherwise, no other agents have shown an impactful response against COVID-19. Recently, research exploring the therapeutic application of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) in critically ill patients suffering from COVID-19 has gained momentum. The patients belonging to this subset are most likely beyond the point where they could benefit from an antiviral therapy because most of their illness at this stage of disease is driven by inflammatory (over)response of the immune system. In this review, we discuss the potential of MSCs as a therapeutic option for patients with COVID-19, based on the encouraging results from the preliminary data showing improved outcomes in the progression of COVID-19 disease.


As of June 3, 2020, there were 6,551,389 global COVID-19 cases with 386,196 deaths. Although approximately 98% of patients experience mild disease, 2% experience severe disease often requiring critical care support.[1,2]

To date, physicians and intensivists treating patients with COVID-19 have limited treatment options in the absence of an effective antiviral agent or vaccine.[3–5] Therapeutic options in the form of convalescent plasma therapy, remdesivir, tocilizumab, and repurposing of various drugs are being explored.[6–10] Recently, a few studies have examined the role of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) in critically ill patients with COVID-19. These studies have shown some early promise as therapeutic possibilities for the treatment of severe COVID-19.[11–14]