Current status in cellular-based therapies for prevention and treatment of COVID-19

Dima Hattab, Mumen F.A. Amer, Amirah Mohd Gazzali, Lay Hong Chuah, Athirah Bakhtiar

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review


Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is the pathogen responsible for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreaks that resulted in a catastrophic threat to global health, with more than 500 million cases detected and 5.5 million deaths worldwide. Patients with a COVID-19 infection presented with clinical manifestations ranging from asymptomatic to severe symptoms, resulting in acute lung injury, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and even death. Immune dysregulation through delayed innate immune response or impairment of the adaptive immune response is the key contributor to the pathophysiology of COVID-19 and SARS-CoV-2-induced cytokine storm. Symptomatic and supportive therapy is the fundamental strategy in treating COVID-19 infection, including antivirals, steroid-based therapies, and cell-based immunotherapies. Various studies reported substantial effects of immune-based therapies for patients with COVID-19 to modulate the over-activated immune system while simultaneously refining the body’s ability to destroy the virus. However, challenges may arise from the complexity of the disease through the genetic variance of the virus itself and patient heterogeneity, causing increased transmissibility and heightened immune system evasion that rapidly change the intervention and prevention measures for SARS-CoV-2. Cell-based therapy, utilizing stem cells, dendritic cells, natural killer cells, and T cells, among others, are being extensively explored as other potential immunological approaches for preventing and treating SARS-CoV-2-affected patients the similar process was effectively proven in SARS-CoV-1 and MERS-CoV infections. This review provides detailed insights into the innate and adaptive immune response-mediated cell-based immunotherapies in COVID-19 patients. The immune response linking towards engineered autologous or allogenic immune cells for either treatment or preventive therapies is subsequently highlighted in an individual study or in combination with several existing treatments. Up-to-date data on completed and ongoing clinical trials of cell-based agents for preventing or treating COVID-19 are also outlined to provide a guide that can help in treatment decisions and future trials.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)321-345
Number of pages25
JournalCritical Reviews in Clinical Laboratory Sciences
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • cell-based therapy
  • dendritic cells
  • mesenchymal stem cells
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • T cells

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