Stem cells – can they suppress the global threat of Covid-19?

The new coronavirus (Covid-19) is spreading fast and the World Health Organization declared a pandemic last week.

It first emerged in Wuhan, Hubei, China, in December 2019 and the source is believed to be a “wet market” which sold both dead and live animals including fish and birds. 

Such markets pose a heightened risk of viruses jumping from animals to humans because hygiene standards are difficult to maintain if live animals are being kept and butchered on site. Typically, they are also densely packed.

The animal source of the latest outbreak has not yet been identified, but the original host is thought to be bats. Bats were not sold at the Wuhan market but may have infected live chickens or other animals sold there. 

The disease spread quickly to 26 countries worldwide representing a serious global public health threat. Hospitals and health systems are faced with a critical challenge to their operations and the fight to suppress the virus is on a global scale. 

Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, dry cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory system injury with overwhelming inflammation in the lung. To date, there are no anti-viral therapeutics that specifically target human coronaviruses, so treatments are only supportive. 

Scientific professions are throwing everything at suppressing the global threat of the virus – vaccines, drugs, stem cells and exosomes – and in recent months, there has been increased activity in the clinical trial sector using stem cells against symptoms of COVID-19. Nearly all of the current stem cells trials are being undertaken in China.

While many approaches are being investigated, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are showing potential for the treatment of the symptoms of COVID-19.

MSCs are multipotent stem cells found in bone marrow, adipose tissue and umbilical cord tissue that are important for making and repairing skeletal tissues, such as cartilage, bone and the fat found in bone marrow.

They are receiving notable attention because past studies have found the secretions from MSCs to be effective at treating inflammation and cytokine storms.

From early-stage studies, it appears that MSC may exert beneficial effects, potentially by improving the lung microenvironment, inhibiting immune system over-activation, protecting lung alveoli epithelial cells, promoting tissue repair, preventing pulmonary fibrosis, or improving lung function.

Stem cell companies tackling Coronavirus world-wide


Athersys has reported positive outcomes in other studies using MSCs in treating respiratory disease. Similarly, Mesoblast’s Remestemcel-L has proved itself to be effective in treating advanced respiratory distress.

Cynata Therapeutics is exploring the capacity of its Cymerus™ platform to treat COVID-19 patients with severe symptoms, including acute respiratory distress syndrome, sepsis and cytokine release syndrome.

Tianhe Stem Cell Biotechnologies and its division in China (Jinan Tianhe Stem Cell Biotechnology Co., Ltd.) have registered a clinical trial (NCT04299152) for evaluating its “Stem Cell Educator Therapy” against the symptoms of COVID-19.

Pluristem Therapeutics is exploring its PLX cell product candidate for treating respiratory and inflammatory complications caused by the novel Coronavirus infection. 

Vitro Biopharma is positioning its scalable manufacturing platform to provide stem cell therapies for symptoms of Coronavirus infections, working the government to present its its AlloRx™ stem cell therapy option.

Furthermore, Celularity is working with Sorrento Therapeutics to evaluate the capacity of its cryopreserved placental-derived Natural Killer cell therapy (CYNK-001) for the treatment and prevention of the symptoms of Coronavirus infections. CYNK-001 has an open IND application with the FDA in blood cancers and the company has submitted this IND application for its use against COVID-19.

Many other companies are also exploring how to manage the global surge of Coronavirus infections.

Stem Cell Trials Against COVID-19

Currently, and the World Health Organization International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (WHO ICTRP) report a combined 29 trials exploring the potential of stem cells for treating the symptoms of COVID-19.

There are 23 active stem cell trials for COVID-19, the vast majority of which utilize MSCs. 16 of the ongoing trials have Chinese Clinical Trial Register (“ChiCTR”) numbers and 7 have National Clinical Trial (NCT) numbers.

When all trial types are considered, there are over 400 studies worldwide exploring approaches to diagnosing, treating or managing COVID-19. 

The Race Toward a COVID-19 Vaccine 

Dozens of companies are rushing vaccine development and proceeding toward clinical trials.

As examples of vaccine development, the U.S. NIH initiated a Phase 1 trial in Seattle evaluating an investigational vaccine (mRNA-1273) created by NIAID scientists and their collaborators at Moderna. Sanofi and Regeneron launched a Phase 2/3 trial in New York evaluating the IL-6 targeted Kevzara.

Inovio Pharmaceuticals has also announced that it will move its vaccine into human trials by April within the U.S.

COVID-19: Market Competitors, Vaccines, Trials, and Potential Treatments

To assess the global market that has rapidly emerged for Coronavirus related products and services, BioInformant has released a 52-page market report focused on ongoing eruption of COVID-19.

The aim of this report is to gather existing research, assess the role of emerging market participants, and enable the reader to make sense of early research and development related to the Coronavirus outbreak.

stem cell preservation

BSc (Hons) Microbiology

Chief Executive Officer | Biovault Family

Biovault Family CEO, Kate Sneddon, joined Biovault in July 2009 and became Chief Executive Officer in 2016. As health industry professional her experience includes working as a microbiologist and leader at GSK for over 10 years. Her expertise in cord blood banking has been recognised in her awards, features in Parliamentary Review and Parents Guide to Cord Blood, as well as contributions to research with UCL and others.

Share This Article:



Request a Brochure

Find out more.

Our hope is that the information in this brochure will empower you as you weigh-up your cord blood and tissue storage options and prepare for your family’s healthy future.

Download your free guide to Biovault Family's cord blood banking!