The global pandemic of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has led to 47m infected cases and 1.2m (2.6%) deaths. A hallmark of more severe cases of SARS-CoV-2 in patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) appears to be a virally-induced over-activation or unregulated response of the immune system, termed a "cytokine storm", featuring elevated levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as IL-2, IL-6, IL-7, IL-22, CXCL10 and TNFα. Whilst the lungs are the primary site of infection for SARS-CoV-2, in more severe cases its effects can be detected in multiple organ systems. Indeed, many COVID-19 positive patients develop cardiovascular complications, such as myocardial injury, myocarditis, cardiac arrhythmia and thromboembolism, which are associated with higher mortality. Drug and cell therapies targeting immunosuppression have been suggested to help combat the cytokine storm. In particular, mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs), owing to their powerful immunomodulatory ability, have shown promise in early clinical studies to avoid, prevent or attenuate the cytokine storm. In this review, we will discuss the mechanistic underpinnings of the cytokine storm on the cardiovascular system, and how MSCs potentially attenuate the damage caused by the cytokine storm induced by COVID-19. We will also address how MSC transplantation could alleviate the long-term complications seen in some COVID-19 patients, such as improving tissue repair and regeneration.



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Ellison-Hughes, G., Colley, L., O'Brien, K., Roberts, K., Agbaedeng, T. & Ross, M. 2020, 'The role of MSC therapy in attenuating the damaging effects of the cytokine storm induced by COVID-19 on the heart and cardiovascular system', Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine, 7. https://doi.org/10.3389/fcvm.2020.602183

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Last updated: 17 June 2022
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