Expert Views: Stem Cells as Clinical and Research Tools For COVID-19


by S. Dravida, PhD
Founder and CEO, Transcell Biologics

World Health Organization (WHO) has named SARS-CoV2 (a new format of corona virus) as COVID-19 while declaring it as causative agent of the pandemic outbreak in 2020 with roots from China. According to a recent publication of the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR), currently, there are no approved stem cell-based approaches neither for prevention nor treatment of COVID-19 infection. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are being researched and trialed as one of the therapeutic tools in the treatment of COVID19. The hypothesis on which MSCs are being trialed is that this particular stem cell type opposes viral infection due to the secretion of specific cytokines by them. These ancillary secretory components are present in MSCs in their intrinsic forte and so they survive even if they are transplanted into a patient with a confirmed COVID-19 infection.


S Dravida leads the team and collaborations responsible for discovering druggable formulations across therapeutic areas and platforms. Her role requires converging and executing both laboratory, clinical research programs across touch points. Her Past Affiliations include University of North Carolina, Ottawa Health Research Institute and Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad Eye Research Foundation. Expertise: Adult stem cell technologies, Predictive platform development and screening, Primary cells, Tumorospheres, Low throughput and High throughput platform technologies, Cancer progenitor cells, Repository of patient sourced screening platforms, Cell based readouts, Drug discovery, pre-discovery process etc.



COVID-19 is shown to trigger a destroying immune overreaction in the body while the immune system produces large amounts of inflammatory factors, causing a cytokine storm that includes an overproduction of immune cells and cytokines. MSCs are postulated to prevent the storm release of cytokines by the immune system and stimulate endogenous repair by reparative properties owing to their stemness. Typically, after intravenous injection, portion of the injected MSCs entangle in the lung, which in otherwise systemic infusion is perceived as a limitation, while it is a blessing in disguise for COVID-19 patients that could positively influence the recovery in the pulmonary microenvironment by way of protecting alveolar epithelial cells, intercepting pulmonary fibrosis, and ultimately curing lung dysfunction and pneumonia caused by the virus.

Adult stem cells especially MSCs can be handy to mimic the human host environment when modeling viral pathogenesis invitro. Noroviruses, rotaviruses, enteroviruses, adenoviruses, zika virus and many other viruses were studied by infecting stem cell cultures invitro while genome-wide analysis of host-virus crosstalk, identification of host factors critical for viral pathogenesis, and the study of viral pathogens are some of the lab based research findings supporting the discovery and development of solutions to diagnose and cure viral diseases. Human biological discards sourced MSCs could be an ideal stem cell type for invitro infection studies with COVID-19 strain while addressing the otherwise known challenges dealing with biopsies, availability, ethics etc.

MSCs type has attracted attention to be considered as therapeutic tool for COVID-19 infection due to source availability, their high proliferation rate supporting in culturing in the labs, low invasive procedure when being injected, and with no ethical issues. As MSCs can be stored for repetitive therapeutic usage, biobanks could play a quintessential role in the supply with safety and efficacy of MSCs documented in several clinical trials.

Pathological microenvironment induced by viral infections in cell cultures contribute tremendously to a researcher’s work on host-virus interactions. If the cell cultures are harvested from human system, they become an amazing alternative invitro systems that accurately re-create in vivo human physiology that can support the study of viral pathogenesis.

About Transtoxbio
Transtoxbio ( is a portfolio with all new league of human biological discards sourced (ethically immuned) primary progenitor cell based platforms for specialty next generation invitro applications in preclinical basic and translational research. Primary stem cells are amenable to any research specific modelling and are cost-effective in the scheme of operations with relevant human specific read outs obtained as experimental end points.

1. Golchin A, Seyedjafari E, Ardeshirylajimi A. Mesenchymal Stem Cell Therapy for COVID-19: Present or Future [published online ahead of print, 2020 Apr 13]. Stem Cell Rev Rep. 2020;1‐7. doi:10.1007/s12015-020-09973-w
2. Transplantation of ACE2- Mesenchymal Stem Cells Improves the Outcome of Patients with COVID-19 Pneumonia. Aging and disease 2020, Vol. 11. Issue (2) : 216-228 DOI: 10.14336/AD.2020.0228



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