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 Transplantation of ACE2- Mesenchymal Stem Cells Improves the Outcome of Patients with COVID-19 Pneumonia

Zikuan Leng1,5,#, Rongjia Zhu2,#, Wei Hou3,#, Yingmei Feng3,#, Yanlei Yang4, Qin Han2, Guangliang Shan2, Fanyan Meng1, Dongshu Du1, Shihua Wang2, Junfen Fan2, Wenjing Wang3, Luchan Deng2, Hongbo Shi3, Hongjun Li3, Zhongjie Hu3, Fengchun Zhang4, Jinming Gao4, Hongjian Liu5*, Xiaoxia Li6, Yangyang Zhao2, Kan Yin6, Xijing He7, Zhengchao Gao7, Yibin Wang7, Bo Yang8, Ronghua Jin3*, Ilia Stambler9,10,11, Lee Wei Lim9,10,12, Huanxing Su9,10,13, Alexey Moskalev9,10,14, Antonio Cano9,10,15, Sasanka Chakrabarti16, Kyung-Jin Min9,10,17, Georgina Ellison-Hughes9,10,18, Calogero Caruso9,10,19, Kunlin Jin9,10,20*, Robert Chunhua Zhao1,2,9,10* 1School of Life Sciences, Shanghai University, Shanghai, China. 2Institute of Basic Medical Sciences Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, School of Basic Medicine Peking Union Medical College, Beijing, China. 3Beijing YouAn Hospital, Capital Medical University, Beijing, China. 4Department of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology, Peking Union Medical College Hospital, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Peking Union Medical College, Beijing, China. 5Department of Orthopaedics, the First Affiliated Hospital of Zhengzhou University, Zhengzhou, China. 6Institute of Stem Cell and Regeneration Medicine, School of Basic Medicine, Qingdao University, Shandong, China. 7Department of Orthopaedics, the Second Affiliated Hospital of Xi’an Jiaotong University, Xi’an, China. 8Department of Neurosurgery, the First Affiliated Hospital of Zhengzhou University, Zhengzhou, China. 9The Executive Committee on Anti-aging and Disease Prevention in the framework of Science and Technology, Pharmacology and Medicine Themes under an Interactive Atlas along the Silk Roads, UNESCO, Paris, France. 10International Society on Aging and Disease, Fort Worth, Texas, USA. 11The Geriatric Medical Center "Shmuel Harofe", Beer Yaakov, affiliated to Sackler School of Medicine, Tel-Aviv University, Tel-Aviv, Israel. 12School of Biomedical Sciences, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China. 13Institute of Chinese Medical Science, University of Macau, Taipa, Macau, China. 14Institute of Biology, Komi Science Center of Russian Academy of Sciences, Syktyvkar, Russia. 15Department of Pediatrics, Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Valencia, Valencia, Spain. 16Maharishi Markandeshwar Deemed University, Mullana-Ambala, India. 17Department of Biological Sciences, Inha University, Incheon, South Korea. 18Faculty of Life Sciences & Medicine, King's College London, London, UK. 19Department of Biomedicine, Neuroscience and Advanced Diagnostics, University of Palermo, Palermo, Italy. 20University of North Texas Health Science Center, Fort Worth, TX76107, USA.

[Received February 25, 2020; Revised February 28, 2020; Accepted February 28, 2020]  Aging and Disease Vol 11,N02; 216-228

ABSTRACT: A coronavirus (HCoV-19) has caused the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Wuhan, China. Preventing and reversing the cytokine storm may be the key to save the patients with severe COVID-19 pneumonia. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have been shown to possess a comprehensive powerful immunomodulatory function. This study aims to investigate whether MSC transplantation improves the outcome of 7 enrolled patients with COVID-19 pneumonia in Beijing YouAn Hospital, China, from Jan 23, 2020 to Feb 16, 2020. The clinical outcomes, as well as changes of inflammatory and immune function levels and adverse effects of 7 enrolled patients were assessed for 14 days after MSC injection. MSCs could cure or significantly improve the functional outcomes of seven patients without observed adverse effects. The pulmonary function and symptoms of these seven patients were significantly improved in 2 days after MSC transplantation. Among them, two common and one severe patient were recovered and discharged in 10 days after treatment. After treatment, the peripheral lymphocytes were increased, the C-reactive protein decreased, and the overactivated cytokine-secreting immune cells CXCR3+CD4+ T cells, CXCR3+CD8+ T cells, and CXCR3+ NK cells disappeared in 3-6 days. In addition, a group of CD14+CD11c+CD11bmid regulatory DC cell population dramatically increased. Meanwhile, the level of TNF-α was significantly decreased, while IL-10 increased in MSC treatment group compared to the placebo control group. Furthermore, the gene expression profile showed MSCs were ACE2- and TMPRSS2- which indicated MSCs are free from COVID-19 infection. Thus, the intravenous transplantation of MSCs was safe and effective for treatment in patients with COVID-19 pneumonia, especially for the patients in critically severe condition.

 

Key words: COVID-19, ACE2 negative, mesenchymal stem cells, cell transplantation, immunomodulation, function recovery

 

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