Current status of mesenchymal stem cell therapy for immune/inflammatory lung disorders: Gleaning insights for possible use in COVID-19

B. Linju Yen, Men Luh Yen, Li Tzu Wang, Ko Jiunn Liu, Huey Kang Sytwu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Citations (Scopus)


The broad immunomodulatory properties of human mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have allowed for wide application in regenerative medicine as well as immune/inflammatory diseases, including unmatched allogeneic use. The novel coronavirus disease COVID-19 has unleashed a pandemic in record time accompanied by an alarming mortality rate mainly due to pulmonary injury and acute respiratory distress syndrome. Because there are no effective preventive or curative therapies currently, MSC therapy (MSCT) has emerged as a possible candidate despite the lack of preclinical data of MSCs for COVID-19. Interestingly, MSCT preclinical data specifically on immune/inflammatory disorders of the lungs were among the earliest to be reported in 2003, with the first clinical use of MSCT for graft-vs-host disease reported in 2004. Since these first reports, preclinical data showing beneficial effects of MSC immunomodulation have accumulated substantially, and as a consequence, over a third of MSCT clinical trials now target immune/inflammatory diseases. There is much preclinical evidence for MSCT in noninfectious—including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis—as well as infectious bacterial immune/inflammatory lung disorders, with data generally demonstrating therapeutic effects; however, for infectious viral pulmonary conditions, the preclinical evidence is more scarce with some inconsistent outcomes. In this article, we review the mechanistic evidence for clinical use of MSCs in pulmonary immune/inflammatory disorders, and survey the ongoing clinical trials—including for COVID-19—of MSCT for these diseases, with some perspectives and comment on MSCT for COVID-19.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1163-1173
Number of pages11
JournalStem cells translational medicine
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • ARDS
  • asthma
  • bacterial pneumonia
  • clinical trial
  • COPD
  • COVID-19
  • cytokine storm
  • idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis
  • influenza
  • mesenchymal stem cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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